For some students, the idea of Spring Break—a week in March when classes are not in session—might conjure images of beaches, college basketball tournaments, or rest and relaxation. For students in VPA, Spring Break is a time to take advantage of career-focused immersion experiences. Thanks to the support of engaged VPA alumni, students from different disciplines across the college may travel to New York City or Los Angeles (accompanied by faculty or staff members) to learn from industry professionals and connect with Syracuse University’s enthusiastic alumni network. Here are four VPA Spring Break immersions with itineraries to envy.
Gilbert Week: NYC Seminar for Music Professions
During Gilbert Week: NYC Seminar for Music Professions, Setnor School of Music students make the most of their time in New York City, where they network with arts professionals and learn about a variety of career paths in such fields as artist management, marketing, education, research and archives, recording and distribution, and special events and operations.
This year, the students met with representatives from large arts organizations as well as one-person and growing businesses. They visited Lincoln Center Theater, the New York Philharmonic Archives, 59e59, Primary Wave, Carnegie Hall, Steinway & Sons, Scholastic, Melt Bakery, VH1 Save the Music, the Orchard, and Ensemble Connect, among others. They benefitted from exclusive, backstage looks at the venues and the ability to ask questions of their hosts, many of whom are Syracuse and Setnor alumni.
“Gilbert Week really added perspective to my understanding of careers in music, education, and the performing arts,” says Elaina Palada ’20, a music education major. “I was inspired by the people and alumni I met throughout the week because of their passion for what they do and the pride they showed for their 'Cuse education.”
“Meeting these spectacular people opened a whole new world of possibilities for future careers in New York City,” says Sara Mitnik ’20, a dual B.A. music and psychology major.
At the beginning of the week, the students attended an alumni reception and met Setnor alumnus and VPA Council member Dennis Gilbert ’73, who established and support the immersion experience with his wife, VPA Council member Nancy Shapiro Gilbert ’74. At the reception, Dennis Gilbert joined a panel of Gilbert Week alumni to talk to the students about the transition from college to career.
“I have often heard that SU has a strong alumni network all over the country, but this was the first time that I had felt it first hand,” says Ryan Mewhorter ’19, a voice performance major. “Everyone is so supportive of one another, and it makes me extremely proud to be a part of a school with students that look out for one another.”
Ginsburg-Klaus Art in Los Angeles Week
Each year, a small group of master of fine arts (M.F.A.) students in the School of Art and Department of Transmedia escape Syracuse’s winter weather and fly to sunny Los Angeles to spend a week investigating art collections housed in the city’s most significant museums and visiting galleries and contemporary studios to hear from prominent artists, curators, and gallery owners, including many Syracuse alumni.
Known as the Ginsburg-Klaus Art in Los Angeles Week, or “Art in LA,” the experience is funded through a gift from VPA Council members Marylyn Ginsburg-Klaus ’56, G’57 and her husband, Charles Klaus G’05, who also support the Turner Semester, a residency program for VPA M.F.A. students in San Pedro, Calif.
This year, Art in LA students were able to visit such museums as the Getty, the Geffen Contemporary at MOCA, the Broad, the Museum of Jurassic Technology, the Hammer Museum, and the Museum of Latin American Art (MOLAA), where they met with Carlos Ortega, curator of collections; Gabriela Martínez, curator of education; and Argentinian artists Chiachio & Giannone. Other highlights included visiting the artist-run space Elevator Mondays, which hosts exhibitions in an elevator, and the artist studios of Cassils, a past Sandra Kahn Alpert Visiting Artist in the School of Art, and Lindsay Preston Zappas, founder and editor of Contemporary Art Review Los Angeles (Carla).
The students also spent a day in San Pedro, where their itinerary included a visit to the Turner Semester students’ studios at Angels Gate and a viewing of their current exhibition.
“It was an incredible experience getting a behind-the-scenes look at art and gallery life in LA,” says Joshua Baker, a studio arts M.F.A. student in the School of Art. “We had immediate access to other artists, curators, galleries, and a thriving community of SU alums who were all supportive and genuinely interested in providing anything we could want or might need to know as both an artist and a graduate student. I was able to broaden my understanding of how the art world can work and made lasting connections.”
“A Day in the Life” at Leibowitz Branding & Design
Communications design students in the School of Design were able to spend a typical day in a bustling branding agency thanks to the New York City-based Leibowitz Branding & Design, which hosted the inaugural “A Day in the Life” immersion experience.
Conceived by Paul Leibowitz ’84, president and chief creative officer, the day was structured to allow the students to sit in on a client presentation; see work in progress; and meet with designers, developers, and account managers to learn how each individual’s role contributes to the team and the overall creation of a brand.
“It was incredible to speak to people in each department of Leibowitz and get a chance to be engaged with the company’s projects,” says Liran Federmann ’21. “I think what was really gratifying was the fact that many of the conversations we have in our comm design classes about the industry and ‘the real world’ came to life during the day. I was able to experience most of what we spoke about in class and that, for sure, was the most valuable part of the experience.”
“The event at Leibowitz Design was not only inspiring but also very reassuring,” says Whitney Hodge ’21. “We interacted with each of the employees, as they all described their role in the design firm. In this way I got to see how the different parts of the company functioned together, which was eye-opening because I normally only interact with designers, rather than web developers, accountants, etc.”
Leibowitz looks forward to growing the “A Day in the Life” experience in the School of Design.
“As an alum, I owe much of my professional success to my time at Syracuse University,” he says. “I always look for ways to give back, and offering this day was an exciting way to connect and teach. Today’s students are so eager to work, and I’m happy to share my story. My goal is to build upon the success of this first year and expand to all the majors in the School of Design.”
Sorkin in LA Learning Practicum
The Sorkin in LA Learning Practicum (also known as Sorkin Week) provides a select group of Department of Drama seniors with a weeklong, "hit-the-studios-running" immersion into the heart of America's film and television industries.
From the moment they stepped off their flight to Los Angeles, this year’s group was busy meeting and learning from Syracuse alumni and industry insiders, including Sorkin Week founder and VPA Council member Aaron Sorkin '83, H'12, an award-winning screenwriter, director, and producer. In addition to meetings with individual alumni, the students had the opportunity to participate in panel discussions with young alumni at Syracuse University Los Angeles, the University’s regional office, and attend the annual Jack Oakie Comedy Night for Syracuse alumni.
The students’ itinerary also included an audio workshop and casting sessions; visits to or tours of Grauman’s Chinese Theatre, the Dolby Theatre, Universal Studios, and Paramount Studios; performances of “Lackawanna Blues” at the Mark Taper Forum, the Groundlings’ “The Crazy Uncle Joe Show,” and “Lights Out: Nat ‘King’ Cole” at the Geffen Playhouse’s Gil Cates Theater, as well as a taping of the CBS sitcom “Mom.”
“Sorkin Week was absolutely incredible,” says Dom Martello ’19, an acting major. “It was amazing to just to be able to meet alums who are working so successfully in their fields. It made me feel that moving to LA would be more feasible and less scary given the alumni base. It also helped me in demystifying what it means to network.”