It was raining furiously that day. I was soaked as I transferred from the 6 to the 1 train, all the way from The Bronx to Broadway. Trying to shake off a flu that had kept me at bay for a week already, I came in the office with a voice that shamed any frog. It seemed that the weather and my condition was foreboding the “challenging times” that were part of the discussion of the Development team who met on that gloomy Tuesday morning. This was not my idea of a summer in New York City, but had I to put up with it. After all, this was the first day of my internship at Symphony Space, an opportunity I had been waiting for all year ever since Ken, my professor from far-away Eastern Michigan University, pitched the idea early in the fall.
The day surprisingly turned out to be pleasant. It warmed up as I met the Development team – Waddy, Leah, Nicole, Becky, and Erin – who welcomed me to their bi-monthly meeting. The day’s orientation continued with the customary tour cum meet-and-greet with the staff, including Isaiah, followed by the run-down of the daily minutiae with Becky.
I knew Symphony Space better in the weeks that followed. I have come to appreciate the diversity of its programs (more than 600 events in a year) and the extent of its reach in the community from the regular meetings, casual encounters with the staff, interaction with fellow interns facilitated by Jenny, browsing of documents, and free viewing of the summer events. I laud its resolve to top the previous season with excellent programming, especially in an ever-challenging economy fraught with furloughs, pay cuts, and a sharp decrease in giving.
In Development, I welcomed the duties of data encoding, letter writing, proofreading, donor prospecting, and tasks in between, all the while observing the nuances of fundraising as “friend-raising” in language crafted and gestures made. I took notes as our department positively pushed to be aggressive and creative, taking the mantra “education, cultivation, solicitation” steps further, from the virtual to the practical. I also got to know more of the ever-changing Upper West Side by visiting current and prospective partners of our Neighborhood Rewards Program whose establishments span from 80th to 100th streets (often with Sesame Street’s “People in Your Neighborhood” playing in my head). This was a good excuse to take advantage of summer in the city.
I still have a month to go before I wrap up my 10-week stint at Symphony Space and my first year in the U.S. Already, I am content with my “New York-or-bust” decision in lieu of a summer vacation in my home country, the Philippines. The internship experience fine-tuned academic discussions in class and abstract concepts in textbooks, contrasting real world from what Leah would often quip as the “ideal world.” I now eagerly look forward next year to wrap up a graduate degree in arts administration and finally come home to put my Symphony Space experience to the test as I help nurture an up-and-coming cultural center at the University of San Agustin in Iloilo City, south of our nation’s capital.
Till then, I’ll take on the fine weather New York City and Symphony Space has to offer.