By Ryan Dearon
It might be surprising to learn that student employment is an important facet of many Bienen School students’ experiences. Not only does having a job help students financially and provide them with meaningful opportunities to grow professionally, student workers also contribute to various departments across the University and foster closer connections with faculty and staff. Read on to learn more about student employment in this interview with three current Bienen students.
Tell us about yourself. What is your year and major, and what office do you work in?
Iris Ingelfiner: I’m a second-year dual degree student studying viola performance and sociology. I work for Bienen’s Ticket Office as a shift manager.
Mikey Ahearn (they/them): I'm a second-year master’s jazz studies student studying trumpet performance. I work as a graduate assistant (GA) in the jazz library.
Andrew Sprague: I’m a second-year master’s student studying voice and opera performance, and I work in the Office of Choral Organizations as one of the graduate assistants.
What are the main responsibilities of your position?
Ingelfiner: As a shift manager, I help troubleshoot and answer any complicated questions that patrons or customer service reps might have. I’m also responsible for managing box office set-up for concerts and ensuring show nights go smoothly; this sometimes includes addressing issues with other branches of the Concert Management Office (CMO). I also complete reports and balance the cash drawer if we take in any physical money. Some of this sounds a little intimidating, but it’s actually straightforward and the responsibilities are distributed across multiple shift managers. Plus, our boss, Max Johnson, is the most helpful and understanding person ever!
Ahearn: My main responsibilities include pulling charts for the Jazz Orchestra to play and organizing taped photocopies in individual folders, along with logging new charts into the system and managing their storage. Outside of the jazz library, we also help steward applicants during audition season.
Sprague: In the choral office, I process and place new compositions into the choral library catalog, count pieces of music to ensure an accurate quantity is documented, and collaborate with supervisors and other graduate assistants on concert management endeavors.
How has your student experience been shaped by being a student worker?
Ingelfiner: I find that this job fits perfectly into my busy schedule. As a Bienen student, it’s super convenient because I can come to work after practicing or after an orchestra or quartet rehearsal. Hours are flexible and accommodating because there are often people willing to pick up your shift or trade with you if conflicts arise. It’s also a great place to get homework done if you can resist the temptation to chat with your coworkers.
Ahearn: GA work has required significant changes in my time management skills in order to fit a shift in each day alongside classes. As a result, my student experience has been a little hectic, but definitely more productive work-wise. We also have had a lot of time to work on specific professional skills, including presentation, punctuality, and ease of access—all elements that I find appearing in my own personal projects.
Sprague: Specifically, being in University Chorale last year while working in the choral office made the experience so fulfilling because I knew I was helping both onstage and off.
Are there any new skills you’ve gained?
Ingelfiner: This is actually my first job, and I’ve found it to be really rewarding working with students, staff, and patrons who care about music. I’ve gotten a lot of practice working with customers and other employees, processing orders, and adapting to new kinds of technology, all while working in a field that I really care about.
Ahearn: How to use the mysterious spiral binding machine and how to use a photocopier properly!
Sprague: All of my previous experience working in music administration or on the "business" side of music has specifically pertained to opera, so I love that I am now getting experience on the choral side as well.
How do you see your job fitting in with the larger fabric of Bienen’s day-to-day functions?
Ingelfiner: I have experience with every element of the work our office does: I’ve been a patron getting my tickets from fellow employees, a performer at the shows for which we sell tickets, and I’ve sold the tickets myself. Friends often ask me how many complimentary tickets they get, when the box office opens, or how they can get tickets, and it’s fun to be in the know! The Ticket Office plays a super important role in concerts running smoothly and manages a good portion of Bienen’s income from events.
Ahearn: My GA work enables the large ensemble of the jazz department to function efficiently and explore varied programs of music.
Sprague: The choral organizations are such a large part of every voice major’s experience at Northwestern, and it feels so special to be able to assist with that.
What do you like most about your student job?
Ingelfiner: I think the best part about this position is all the people I’ve met and gotten to work with daily. The full-time staff at CMO are all super sweet and helpful, and they work well with the student employees. My fellow student coworkers are some of my favorite people that I’ve met on campus, and I’ve become close with a lot of them. I also love getting to work in a musical setting. We can hear ensembles rehearsing from our office and it’s exciting to meet the people coming to see student performances. I get a real sense that people in our community appreciate Northwestern’s amazing music programs.
Ahearn: My close contact with faculty and staff on a regular basis helps me stay more involved in school affairs, which is nice. It's also lovely when other students see the library door open and drop in to say hello.
Sprague: Getting to work and collaborate with the other students that work in the same office!
Ryan Dearon is a second-year master’s voice and opera student.