Membership Intern: A Day in the Life

15 Feb

Sitting in my dorm room at school, I log into Raiser’s Edge and start compiling and organizing data to begin the process of generating this week’s acknowledgement letters. I work quickly but thoroughly as I want to finish these acknowledgement letters before my zoom meeting at eleven a.m. I finish the acknowledgement letters just before eleven and join the zoom meeting with the rest of ABT’s Development Team. I listen in to hear new updates from the Major Gifts and Institutional Support Team and also receive a rundown of tonight’s gala schedule from the Special Events Team. The meeting closes out at noon and I join my second and last zoom meeting of the day. In this meeting I met with ABT’s Telefunding Team alongside Grey Johnson, ABT’s Director of Membership, and Tilmon Splawn, ABT’s Membership Assistant. This meeting is cut short as Grey, Tilmon, and I need to head to Lincoln Center for ABT’s Fall Gala.   

The call ends and I quickly put makeup on and change into my gala dress. I walk to the subway and head downtown to Lincoln Center. When I arrive, I am greeted by the rest of the development team and the other development interns. The head of Special Events gives us a tour of the gala venue and assigns each of us a specific role for the night. I was assigned door duty with two other interns. We were in charge of greeting guests and directing them to the gala check-in table. Additionally, we were supposed to help the guests with any miscellaneous questions they had. 

The night of the gala was a frenzy, but also one of the most spectacular professional experiences I have ever experienced. Not only was I able to watch the groundbreaking premiere of Christopher Rudd’s Lifted and see some of my favorite ABT dancers perform that I had admired since my early years of ballet training; but I was also able to play a part in one of ABT’s most important philanthropic events. The opportunity to work at ABT’s Fall 2022 Gala solidified my love for and reaffirmed my future career goal of working in development for a performing arts organization.  

This is just an example of one rewarding day out of many that I have experienced this past semester while working as ABT’s Membership Intern. Each day I have worked with ABT this past semester has been both fruitful and enriching. Whether it was learning about a new function in Raiser’s Edge, proofreading ABT newsletters, working the membership table, or deciding which articles to send to donors; each task or experience with ABT has strengthened my skills and allowed me to learn something new. I am so grateful for the opportunity to have interned with ABT’s Membership Department this past semester and am especially appreciative of Maureen Steinhorn, Tilmon Splawn, and Grey Johnson who served as my mentors. I had such a memorable experience and hope to be involved with ABT again in some capacity. 

Victoria Cunnane

Membership Intern (Development)

Fall 2022

Major Gifts Intern at ABT

15 Feb

Writing this, I have now been finished with my Major Gifts internship with American Ballet Theatre for 1 week. As I look back on my semester, I feel incredibly lucky for the immense amount of tutelage I received, the connections I was able to make, and the dream I was able to accomplish. For 15 years of my life, I was a serious ballet dancer, looking up to ABT and everything that the historic company has continued to stand for. Once I retired from the stage, I began studying Arts Administration at Butler University and after two other dance related internships, I applied and landed a spot in ABT’s internship program with Major Gifts. My internship experience was nothing short of worthwhile, allowing me to achieve a lifelong goal of working for a major ballet company.

Something unique about my experience is that I completed my internship fully virtual from my college campus in Indianapolis, Indiana. Nonetheless, my mentors and colleagues at ABT made my work environment so positive and I can’t imagine another opportunity where I learned as much as I did. I’ve learned that I feel fulfilled sharing my love of the arts with the community, making worthwhile connections with people who feel the same, and seeing the results of hard work firsthand. With this internship, specifically in Major Gifts, I have seen the hardworking nature of passionate staff and it inspired me for my future endeavors. My daily tasks included writing and drafting acknowledgement letters, conducting prospective donor research, organizing information on dancer sponsorships, among others. Also, attending weekly professional development meetings provided me with information on the other roles in the organization and their journeys to ABT.

One thing that I appreciated greatly was everyone’s eagerness to connect with the interns and aid them on their path to success. Each of the staff members that participated in the weekly professional development meetings made a point to share connection information and offered their assistance in any situation we might need. I also enjoyed attending weekly staff meetings and learning from likewise professionals in the industry. I was able to gain a plethora of valuable knowledge and see the functions of a growing dance non-profit organization.

Although my experience was different than most, I felt I still experienced the intended effect of working for such a historic organization. I loved working for an organization that I was passionate about and that I had a history of admiring. I feel very lucky to have made the connections that I did, to have learned from enthusiastic mentors like Josephine Smolsky and Anna Hessa, and to have worked at organization that where I feel proud to have been an intern.

Payton Field

Major Gifts Intern (Development)

Fall 2022

A Foundation in Foundations

15 Feb

As a dancer and arts administration student, I have dreamed about interning at American Ballet Theatre since I moved to New York. So after living in New York for a year, I was ecstatic to have the opportunity to join the development department this fall! With my experience in development mostly in individual giving, I wanted to branch out a bit to learn more about foundations through institutional giving. 

As the institutional support intern, I learned so much about the foundations that already support ABT’s mission. There are so many foundations in New York and the U.S. who believe in the power of the arts, which is very encouraging to find. While assisting with grant applications, I learned more about the wonderful work that ABT does every day – from the beautiful performances onstage at Lincoln Center, to the workshops that dancers lead with students in schools or in parks over the summer. While compiling information for grant applications, I got to read outstanding reviews of the work that ABT would perform that fall and on its upcoming tour, which made me even more excited to see the performances! It was enlightening to read about ABT’s initiatives and share them proudly with the foundations we are asking for support from. The hard work ABT does to bring ballet to New York and beyond makes it easy to write about why foundations should support it.  

When I was not researching and writing components of grants, I loved helping out at the membership table and the fall gala! At the membership table, so many donors and guests were excited to talk to me about the performance on stage or the many years they have been attending ABT performances. I love connecting with people about dance, so I appreciated the opportunity to both be able to write about dance as well as speak about it with attendees of the performances! I deeply valued the writing and research experience I gained as the institutional support intern this fall, as well as all of the beautiful ballet I got to see.  

Nadine Hemming

Institutional Support Intern (Development)

Fall 2022

The Next Step at ABT

15 Feb

In June of 2022 I walked out of the Metropolitan Opera House basically speechless after seeing ABT’s Of Love and Rage. My mother and I couldn’t stop talking about the beauty and intensity we saw on stage that day. Shortly after, I saw that internship applications were open at ABT, and my heart skipped a beat. I could never imagine working where some of my favorite ballets were performed, and it became possible just then.

Cut to September, and I am having my first of many intern meetings. These meetings are designed to give you professional development opportunities, and also connect you with many leaders in the company. Hearing the stories of others in the arts field was inspirational. I was able to see how they used their business or communication backgrounds to succeed in a performing arts space, how they were able to channel these skills to further the message of ABT.

Each day I worked closely with my mentor and the rest of the Press Department. From the beginning, each member of the department was so welcoming, and I was able to dive right into projects and tasks. I worked on collecting article mentions of ABT in the press, finding press contacts, and my favorite part: writing. I have always found writing to be an interest of mine, and I was really able to exercise this skill during my internship. Whether it was pitches, press releases, or media alerts, the team gave me so many opportunities to write and edit. Through reading, writing, and researching I was able to get so much information and history about ABT, which was so rewarding for me as someone who used to dance.

What was most exciting for me during these past few months was being a part of ABT’s Fall season. As an intern, we got tickets to see many of the shows, but as part of the press department I was able to see so much more of what goes on behind the scenes. Throughout the season I saw rehearsals, photoshoots, and worked with the press and photographers for the Fall Gala. Being able to witness these performances and rehearsals was so special to me, but was also a moment of professional growth. I saw how the press department and the press interact, and the process by which an article or review about the company gets published.

Overall, this internship was so incredible for my personal and professional growth. I got so much hands-on experience with Public Relations and communications, but I also found how special it is to work for a nonprofit, and to work for an organization with a clear mission. As someone in business school, working somewhere like ABT wasn’t something originally on my radar, but through this internship I was able to see the impact of performing arts organizations, and I am truly grateful for this experience and everything that it taught me.

Mia Brown

Press Intern

Fall 2022

One Step Forward

15 Feb

The little girl in a pink tutu smiling at her mom as she leaped into the air would have never imagined one day; she would be interning at American Ballet Theatre. At age 7, returning to Korea from San Diego, I never danced ballet again and thought I would never do anything relevant to the beautiful art form. Now at age 24, pursuing a Master’s in Performing Arts Administration, I have just finished my first internship at American Ballet Theatre as a Marketing Intern. The past four months have been an unforgettable journey; it was more than everything I could ask for. 

I had always been passionate about marketing, frankly without knowing what marketing meant and the role it played in the performing arts industry. Taking classes only gave me a general idea, and I craved hands-on marketing experience. Initially, I believed marketing was all about numbers and promotion, helping the organization increase sales by creating content. Through my time at ABT, I understood better the role of marketing and how to develop myself to become an efficient marketer. 

Two things that stuck with me and I will keep in mind in my future career developments are storytelling and the amount of collaboration that happens. While talking to my mentor, Steven, he mentioned the importance of understanding the consumer’s buying journey and how marketing promotes shows through storytelling. I enjoyed analyzing post-show surveys and connecting them to the audience’s demographic data. Another lesson I learned during my internship was the importance of collaboration between different departments. Attending marketing meetings, I could see the interactions between the marketing, press, and development teams. It was fascinating to see the different teams collaborate to achieve a common goal, and I enjoyed watching the various content created for the patrons. 

My internship at ABT was indeed an unforgettable experience. Everyone was genuinely interested in helping me, and there were many moments when I felt my voice was being heard. Thank you to everyone at ABT for giving me this incredible working experience! 

Kate Lee

Marketing Intern

Fall 2022


15 Feb

Dance has always been my escape. A place to forget about the pressure of my competitive rhythmic gymnastics career and the daily struggles at my all-girls high school. Though I knew that I did not want to pursue dance professionally, I recognized that there was no future career path for me that did not include dance or the performing arts in my daily work in some capacity. The ABT Executive Office Development Assistant Internship was the perfect blend of my passion for dance and the business and special events side of the art form.   

In college, I studied economics and media studies, continuously trying to find a way to combine those two disciplines as I did not want to go down the strictly business or artistic routes. When the opportunity to receive the Arts Management and Leadership Certificate at my school arose, it felt as though all my prayers had been answered. Getting to take classes like Introduction to Arts Management, Survey of Accounting, Business Law, and Strategic Communication and Marketing for the Arts, I knew that for my capstone course I wanted an experience that gave me that real world hands-on experience that would allow me to take everything I learned in the classroom and apply it in the workplace.  

ABT was perfect in all these ways. As my first experience interning for such a large organization, I was thrown straight into a world that I had admired from the seat in the audience my whole life. Getting paired with the most caring and supportive mentor, every day was a new learning opportunity and chance for growth. From the smallest tasks like filling out ticket requests and donation forms to larger assignments like conducting prospect research and report preparation for special projects including the Fall Gala and Board Committee meetings, I was able to see what the day-to-day life working in development at a nonprofit performing arts organization looked like.  

I will always look back on this experience with gratitude and appreciation for the amazing community at ABT, who cared about each student’s professional development in addition to their daily tasks. Getting to hear from leaders in different roles all throughout the development team and ABT as a whole twice a week, was an incredible way to see what various paths within a career in the performing arts can look like and opened my eyes to where I want to go post-graduation and beyond.  

Jennifer Ayzman

Development Executive Office Intern (Development)

Fall 2022

Education at 890 Broadway

15 Feb

For a ballet nerd or a fan of ABT, the Education offices at 890 Broadway are probably your ideal work environment: there’s classical music drifting down the halls, people sewing costumes and telling stories, and seeing Stella Abrera is a daily occurrence. This fall, I interned in Engagement, which is the department responsible for outreach geared towards schoolchildren and their families. As a product of the artistically barren New York City public school system, I would have been thrilled to participate in the excellent, generous programs that ABT has to offer.

Working in Engagement is uniquely rewarding in the sense that the fruits of our labor are visible and tangible. During an outreach event held at Frank Sinatra School of the Arts, hundreds of NYC elementary school children gathered to watch ABT Studio Company perform. It was incredibly moving to watch most of them experience ballet for the first time. The energy in the theater felt less like Lincoln Center, and more like the Super Bowl; the kids gasped, cheered, and shouted out in awe. I personally think that Engagement does some of the most noble and vital work in all of ABT by expanding its horizons, and reaching new and untapped generations of audience members.

During my time at ABT, no two days in the office were the same. I updated school databases, stuffed swag bags, made IDs for company members and staff (you’re welcome, Susan Jaffe!), and created programs, study guides and other educational materials. My department’s biggest and most long-term project was the Ticket Distribution program, which offers free tickets to the ABT fall and spring seasons for NYC schools. Ticket Distribution was multifaceted and required a mix of technical and people skills, and a high degree of organizational precision.

I am so proud to have been a small part of the Engagement team. If you have the opportunity to work for Amanda Tomera, do so. She was easygoing, welcoming and went above and beyond providing me with memorable experiences and peeks into the larger ABT world. I am also grateful to have worked with Dennis Walters, who gives great career advice, and Richard Toda, a ballet history buff and incredibly kindhearted person. I especially enjoyed watching them work directly with the school children. One of my favorite aspects of the internship was the professional development series, which brought in a different speaker every week. A highlight was speaking with CEO and Executive Director Janet Rollé, who generously shared her wisdom, experience, and advice from Beyoncé with us. A huge thank you to Naomi Gewanter and Julie Solomon, who supported all the interns through this series, and everything in between. Working for ABT has been both as wonderful as I expected and completely surprising. My only regret regarding my internship is that it had to end!

Isabella Spagnuolo

Engagement Intern (Education)

Fall 2022

An Eventful Semester!

15 Feb

As a last semester student moving to New York City and trying to find valuable experience, I was very nervous about finding a workplace that would give me as much as I was willing to give it. American Ballet Theatre did just this, and this wonderful semester has flown by quicker than I could have imagined.

During the semester, I have done a variety of tasks- big and small- that have taught me a great deal about special events in a nonprofit. No day looked quite the same as the special events intern. There were many ongoing tasks that I tackled, such as prospect research, donation acknowledgment letters, and sorting through the email inbox. However, I was also able to do so many tasks that prove how much goes into special events that you may not think of. For instance, on the day of the gala, me and my internship advisor glued cue cards for the speakers. Another interesting task I was part of was finding florists near the houses of our patrons so that we could deliver flowers to them as a ‘thank you’ after the gala. I would dare say these tasks are what taught me the most about special events. There is much more to this department than just planning two galas a year and hoping people will show up.

Along with these tasks, I also was able to sit in on zoom meetings weekly. Here, I begin to understand the importance of collaboration through the different segments of development. It was very interesting to see that in a company like ABT, all hands are on deck for anything where they need to be. It was also very inspiring to me to see how well ABT works as a team. I feel very lucky that, for a short period of time, I was able to be part of this team.

Working at ABT has been a really wonderful learning experience. It has shown me what interests me within development beyond special events, what a great work culture looks like, and lastly, what I am capable of. I was able to learn so much simply by my internship advisors trusting me to succeed. I am leaving ABT a more well-rounded and knowledgeable employee.

Chloe Cook

Special Events Intern (Development)

Fall 2022

The Best of Both Worlds

15 Feb

My experience over the past four months in the National Training Curriculum department has helped me grow as a person, professional, and dancer. An important take-away from this experience is that my passion for dance did not have to end when I left the studio. After dancing for my entire life and recently taking a step back, I didn’t think there was any way I could incorporate it into my future career. This internship experience has shown me the multitude of ways in which one can translate a love of dancing to their work and have the best of both worlds. 

I wasn’t sure what to expect when I came in on my first day, but I was welcomed by Saya, my supervisor and National Training Curriculum Assistant, with open arms. As Saya gave me a tour of 890 Broadway, I was in awe that I would be sharing a space with all the creative minds behind the American Ballet Theatre. Honestly, after all this time, I still keep having to pinch myself. The tour was just the beginning of my ABT journey. Once I got settled into my position, I was able to call on old skills with Microsoft office and learn new ones through organizing data and information, facilitating payments, packaging book and NTC material orders, and drafting certificates and agreements for certified teachers. 

My involvement with other department events has also given me a clearer perspective on the importance of establishing a strong foundation for and continuation of excellent training. There have been many opportunities when I was able to meet and observe true ballet idols. During the Raising the Barre workshop weekend, I met and observed mentors such as Cynthia Harvey teach students about the balletic and historical nuances behind Frederick Ashton’s, The Dream. I also had a chance to have a similar experience in our weekly intern meetings with guest speakers such as Kevin McKenzie, the Artistic Director of ABT, and Stella Abrera, the Artistic Director of the JKO School. These weekly discussions further cemented the knowledge that a love for dancing is not limited to performing.  

My time here has been truly rewarding and educational. I have had a wonderful time working with Saya and Molly and appreciate their patience and guidance along the way. Whatever the future holds for me professionally, I will look back fondly at my time as an intern with ABT.  

Ashley Silva

National Training Curriculum Intern (Education & Training)

Fall 2022

The Right Opportunity at the Right Time 

23 Aug

Last spring I participated in an internship centered on development for a regional equity theatre company. I then desired to build upon the skills I developed there and apply them on a bigger scale at a larger performing arts non-profit. My background and love of dance coupled with ABT’s wide-reach and impressive engagement with national and international audiences led to the perfect fit. Additionally, making the move from my development experience to the specificity of a major gifts office seemed like a natural step in my growth in this development space.  

This was a very exciting summer to join the major gifts department. This summer season brought ABT’s return to the Metropolitan Opera House stage for the first time since the pandemic, and what a season it was. With five weeks and countless performances, it would be dishonest to say the complimentary ballet tickets and access to interfacing with ABT members and patrons wasn’t a highlight of the summer. Working on office work during the day and getting to come to the theatre at night was a delightful compliment. I found it uniquely special to see the result of all the work the ABT administrative and artistic teams put in day after day, year round.  

More specifically though, my role consisted of data-entry and organization, working the membership table during performances at the Met, and conducting prospective major donor research. Donor research helped the majors team identify potential candidates for solicitations of major gifts, but more often the process helped identify individuals the majors and development team desired to develop a closer relationship with. This was very interesting to me and represented my favorite administrative part of the job. I got to learn more about patrons through publicly available information and often discovered their ties to other arts organizations or philanthropic endeavors. These indicators often communicate to the majors team that a prospective donor may be a good fit based on their demonstrated interests or career.  

I also appreciated seeing how memberships with patrons and donors are cultivated and maintained. This happened in a more public facing space, at the membership table. Here I observed how ABT staff answered questions, communicated membership costs and bonuses, and handled customer service situations, such as ticket issues or other complaints. I also got to take part in this important public facing role myself and found it to be quite enjoyable.  

At the end of the summer I came away with my goals accomplished. I feel the experience I gained at ABT this summer researching prospective donors built on the skills I developed in my previous non-profit arts internships. Additionally, I gained important database experience—which is applicable at numerous organizations and in countless fields. I am very grateful I was selected with this amazing cohort of summer 2022 interns. Everyone I met was kind and motivated. I can only speak highly of the program and my supervisor. I have immense gratitude for the whole ABT team, each of the speakers who took the time to teach us, and our wonderful program directors!  

Nell Adkins

Major Gifts Intern (Development)

Summer 2022