A Pitch-Perfect Oppor-TUNE-ity

News Story categories: Arts Management
Nikia Lee '22 in a blue dress posing for a photo.

J-term internship places Yellow Jacket at local music academy

by Emily Villacrusis ’22

nikia lee posing for a photo in a blue and white dress

Sitting comfortably at her corner desk at home in Buckingham, VA, Nikia Lee ’22 (Arts Management major) checks to make sure her laptop is charged and her notebook is on hand before she begins her day. To help her feel confident, she puts on her favorite outfit: a bright sunshine-yellow blouse, dainty gold “N” necklace … and gray sweatpants.

Lee is in the first few weeks of a virtual internship at the Ashland Music Academy (AMA), a local music academy, and she is taking advantage of the work-from-home flexibility. Searching for a way to get experience in music and digital design, Lee reached out to her advisor, Professor of Music and Chair of the Department of Arts James Doering, last semester for guidance on securing a J-term internship.

“My role is initially to help with getting things set up and to make sure the connections are strong between the intern and the site supervisor,” Doering said. “Plus, making sure that it’s a position that matches with the skillset of the student.”

To find a perfect match for Lee, Dr. Doering reached out to Thomas Wakefield, an adjunct faculty member in RMC’s fine arts department and AMA’s director. Doering knew AMA wanted to create a stronger social media presence, which is where Lee’s skillset would be particularly useful.

“I reached out to [Mr. Wakefield] thinking this is something that’s close, and they may have a need. The situation worked out so that it would fit in J-term,” said Doering.

Lights, Camera, Unmute

A music academy is “essentially a place where people of all abilities can take music lessons,” Doering explained. “It might be little kids taking lessons on the guitar for the first time, or it could be adults that are coming back to it. What you actually learn depends on the individual teachers in various areas.”

To get the word out about AMA’s services, Lee is helping to expand the organization’s social reach by creating the academy’s first website. Though only a couple weeks into her internship, Lee has already gathered research to curate ideas for AMA’s soon-to-be website. Lee says she is beginning to build the website’s foundation by “comparing other academies to AMA to see what would work for AMA.”

Other tasks include finding the most efficient ways to expand music classes and lessons, keeping a detailed account of notes during meetings, and helping her supervisors with Zoom technology. Thus far, one of Lee’s overarching focuses has been creating a list of criteria she would like in a musical client—an important list to have handy for her future career goals as a performer. She believes one of the most important aspects a potential client can have is the ability to learn different genres of music without losing sight of proper technique.

From her internship, Lee hopes to learn “how to make an interactive and well-managed website, while also learning more about the behind the scenes of music and how it works at an academy.”

A Minor (Key) Change

Due to the pandemic, Lee’s internship is completely virtual. “Having the pandemic and the bad weather affecting me has been hard,” she says. Doering acknowledged that the pandemic has hit arts management internships particularly hard, making recent arrangements “difficult but fruitful.”

“Oftentimes, arts management internships are at nonprofit organizations which are set up in ways that are sometimes barebones already to start with,” Doering said. “COVID either impacted their staffing or their ability to have their doors open to the public. Lots of different places where we try to place interns simply weren’t doing it.”

Despite the many challenges COVID has presented, working from home can produce some positives—like attending meetings in sweatpants. Whether virtual or in person, Doering points out there are many advantages to doing a J-term internship. “It’s totally an application situation. They can get a sense of is this what I really want to do?’ It’s an educational benefit either way.”

Lee feels taking an internship during J-term allows her to home in on getting the most out of her work.

“I can focus on the internship more rather than worrying about being overloaded with coursework and extracurriculars as I would during an entire semester,” Lee added.

Beyond the Computer

Though her internship is a new experience, Lee is certainly not new to the stage. Music has always been a significant part of her life, a passion she attributes to her family.

“Growing up watching my great-grandmother, grandmother, and mother sing was so inspiring,” Lee said. “There are also dancers, instrumentalists, and theater-lovers in my family. They have helped me pursue my love for it all.”

Lee’s family helped her find the path she wanted to pursue, but her education at RMC and internship with AMA is what makes that path a reality. “My music education has been such an amazing experience at RMC. The music program is filled with amazing staff, professors, and students,” said Lee.

After she graduates in May, Lee hopes to attend graduate school to study “behind-the-scenes work while also performing.” After that, she hopes to achieve her biggest dream yet: Broadway!


A headshot of Emily Villacrusis


Emily Villacrusis ’22 is a Communication Studies major with a minor in Journalism. After she graduates, she hopes to work in PR for Disney World or a golf program. When she isn’t writing, she can be found on the golf course or on stage dancing.