It was an inspiring summer for three Southern students, who were among 14 participants selected for the Arts Workforce Initiative (AWI), a paid apprenticeship program offered through the Connecticut Office of the Arts. The competitively awarded program placed Southern’s honorees at three Connecticut nonprofit, cultural organizations:
The three found the AWI program rewarding and illuminating. “I always knew I would end up working in the arts, I just never knew how exactly,” says Bizier, who served as a community outreach assistant during the apprenticeship. His responsibilities ranged from leading information sessions to crafting requests for proposals. It was a great fit for Bizier, who describes an “insatiable” urge to create and a pull toward public advocacy. “Since I was a teen, these two sides of me felt like an “either-or” situation,” he says. “When the field of arts administration was introduced to me — a marriage between advocacy and the arts — it felt serendipitous.”
McGinley, a self-described “creative kid,” also felt the allure of the arts: “But it was only during my first year at SCSU that I realized I could work in the arts.” They reached an epiphany after enrolling on a whim in “AAC-200, Topics in Arts Administration” for the spring 2023 semester. It was love at first assignment. “I decided I needed to seriously explore careers in arts nonprofits and took a chance on applying to AWI,” McGinley says. They were selected for the apprenticeship, placed with CAST in marketing and communications. Their charges: designing social media content and developing posting strategies, contacting news outlets, and advertising the theatre’s events. It was meaningful, resume-building work for the senior — a gift for the talented student who “really needed a summer job.”
The arts also are a natural focus for fellow AWI participant Catherine Sigg: she studied flute for 10 years with the Neighborhood Music School in New Haven and was active with the band and drama club at Wilber Cross High School in the city. She took a gap year after graduating in 2021 during the COVID-19 pandemic. Then Sigg, a New Haven Promise Scholar, enrolled at Southern where she was invited to join Southern’s Honors College and awarded the Walter Stutzman Family Foundation Music Scholarship.
She learned about Southern’s newly launched undergraduate degree in music therapy from flutist Elaine Thoma, her longtime instructor. “She explained some of the ways people use music psychologically . . . . to help with pain relief and ease anxiety in patients. They play music to help children who are non-verbal interact and learn to speak. Music is used in so many different ways,” says Sigg, who was placed as a co-counselor with Neighborhood Music School’s theatre program through the AWI. She worked with 7- and 8-year-old children, even helping them make their own costumes. She loves children but had not worked with them previously. “They are wonderful. Complete bundles of energy,” she says.
Meanwhile back on campus, Sigg is studying the flute and piano; she’ll learn guitar and voice as well, both required to become a certified music therapist, she notes. (The Stutzman Family Foundation funds instrument and voice lessons for students majoring and minoring in music at Southern.) She’s also taking a course in “Receptive Music Therapy,” which has an experiential component. “I’ve always wanted to get a job that involves helping people,” says Sigg, who considered studying social work. “ But I love music, which is why I was drawn to music therapy. It’s a combination of two of my favorite things.”
Since the inception of the Arts Workforce Initiative in 2017, the program has placed more than 100 Connecticut individuals interested in exploring a career in the arts.