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Contributing to ABT

1 Jun

Growing up, I always loved the idea of working within the performing arts industry and this dream only strengthened during the Covid-19 pandemic and the subsequent shutdown of live performances. While I have danced all my life, I never had the potential or desire to try and go professional however I always believed in the arts importance in our lives and I wanted to contribute to it. I connected with ABT immediately due to its mission of reaching the widest possible audience across the United States. Additionally, it also was the first professional ballet company I had seen perform even though I been dancing ballet since I was little. Therefore, when I saw ABT had available internships within a department I had previous experience with another nonprofit during my senior year at Fordham University, I knew I had to apply. This internship has not only accomplished a dream of supporting one of my favorite ballet companies, but was an incredibly rewarding and exciting experience.  

During my time at ABT, I worked on a variety of projects, supporting both the Major Gifts team and Donor Relations team, particularly with patron ticketing in the lead up to the 2023 MET season. Every day I would open my email and see what requests had come in, helping to keep track of them and complete their order forms to ensure every donor got the best tickets for them. I also helped with the long-term projects of preparing for this process, as I began in January, right in time to assist with the vital prep work for those requests. I loved to see the different shows that donors want to see and their excitement for the upcoming season. I also helped with prep work for credit in programs for shows, making sure every donor who needed credit received it. Working on these and therefore confronting how many people donate and care about this organization only cemented my belief in the importance of the arts. Working with Donor Relations proved a valuable experience because it showed the various ways that donors connect and interact with the organization.  

Meanwhile, I also worked with the Major Gifts team, helping the donating process for the higher-level donors. This included working on acknowledgement letters when people donated to make sure every person felt ABT’s immense appreciation for their donation. I also helped put together informational materials for donors, so they had all the relevant information when making their donations decisions and to stay up to date with the current events at ABT.  

ABT has exceeded and fulfilled a dream to work towards supporting the arts, even during the touring season without performances in New York. Seeing all the work that goes into making such an outstanding ballet company run and the amazing people that make it happen. Walking into the office and hearing the ballet music wafting through the hallway added the perfect touch to an amazing work day and internship.  

Katie Lewis

Major Gifts & Donor Relations Intern (Development)

Spring 2023

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

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

Take 2… Action!

7 Jun

As a lifelong dancer, in my eyes it doesn’t get much better than the American Ballet Theater. That is why for years I had waited for the perfect moment to apply for ABT’s renowned internship program. After reading through every square inch of internship information available on the ABT website as well as dozens of blog posts from previous interns, I was convinced this was going to be a turning point in my arts career.

It was March 2020, and I was sitting down in my brother’s childhood bedroom, the quietest room I could find in my family home to do my ABT interview. I had spent the past week doing my research and preparing as much as possible. All I could do now was stay calm, cool, and collected and cross my fingers. The call ends, and I am ecstatic… I think it went super well! But then a week, two weeks, a month goes by and no word from ABT. Eventually, I hear back and am told that I was not selected to be a 2020 summer intern at ABT.

Naturally, I was disappointed. As a junior in college, 2020 had already proven to be a difficult year amidst the turbulence of the COVID-19 pandemic and the isolated, virtual livelihood that ensued. This rejection just felt like another let down.

It is now November of 2021, and I decided I was ready to reapply to the ABT internship program. This time, I had set my sights specifically on an internship in Development. Since my last application, I had taken the time to explore the field of arts administration more specifically, through various marketing, education, consulting, and PR arts-related internships. I was going into this second application cycle with a more clear and informed lens into what it means to work in the arts and why I was specifically interested in Development.

When I learned that I had gotten an internship in Major Gifts for Spring 2022, it was such a surreal moment. It felt as though everything I had been working towards for the last two years had led up to this one moment. The internship was such an amazing experience, full of incredible mentors, projects, insights, and a strong sense of community. Working closely with the Major Gifts and Development team as we prepared for the Met 2022 season gave me hands-on experience into both the day-to-day operations of development and show-specific work required to fundraise at a large arts nonprofit. From writing renewal letters to organizing the list of donors for the playbill, this internship gave me the long-desired opportunity to work in development in the arts.

To anyone who may have applied in the past and been rejected, this is your sign to take the dive and apply again. Sometimes, a difficult rejection may open a new door that is exactly what you are looking for but had no idea ever existed.

Sophie Blue

Major Gifts Intern

Spring 2022

Curtains Up!

15 Jan

I’m thrilled that I got to be a part of the ABT team during this fall season, when the curtains at the Koch theatre rose once again on this amazing company. The feeling that washed over me as I heard an orchestra tune up for the first time in nearly two years was unparalleled to anything I have felt in recent memory. I was honored to be a part, however small, in this terrific milestone for not only for ABT but also for the greater NYC performance community.  

Having the opportunity to intern on the Major Gifts team within the Development department was an excellent opportunity to bring the classroom to life. After a few classes on development, I was ready to put my textbook learning to practical use in an actual development setting. This internship provided exactly that. I was able to grow familiar and comfortable with some of the day-to-day development operations at a large nonprofit arts organization, something I certainly couldn’t have learned in a classroom setting alone.  

The fall gala was the pinnacle of the experience for me, as I witnessed the culmination of my work and projects leading up to that moment, and how exactly I was integral in the success of the event. I laid eyes on donors whose names I had grown familiar with, humanizing the names on paper in the database. To see these people whose donations made it possible for this performance to even go on helped me fully realize the importance of development and gave me a great sense of satisfaction in my work. 

The entire team at ABT, from staff to my peers within the internship program, created an exciting and welcoming energy that I was happy to step into. I’m glad that I had this opportunity, as it will prove beneficial in my future decisions and endeavors. Even if I don’t continue down the path of development, I have a greater appreciation and understanding of the field that can only serve to make me a better arts administrator, no matter what path I choose. 

Maria Tolzmann

Major Gifts Intern

Fall 2021

Lessons From A Virtual Internship

1 Dec

As my time at the virtual version of 890 Broadway comes to a close, I find myself grateful for the opportunity to make a difference at such a pivotal moment.  This year has been a time of growth and challenges, but ABT takes it in stride.  With this growth, I learned some lessons working virtually.  I have got 3 pieces of advice: 1) you are your greatest advocate, 2) overcommunicate, and 3) be enthusiastic. 

For the first lesson, it is always important to remember that if you want more projects, can handle more, or have ideas then you need to be the one to bring them up to your supervisor/department.  Everyone is very busy, so make sure to be your own advocate to be heard.  ABT is a collaborative environment and values people who can step up and fill a need.  Advocate for yourself.  In my experience at ABT, if I wanted more projects, I made sure my supervisor knew where I was on current projects and my capacity for more.  This brings me to the second lesson, overcommunicate.  In a virtual world, it can be very difficult to learn the culture of an organization.  If you are unsure about how something is done or want clarity on a subject, just ask.  If you have the capacity to take on more, communicate that to your supervisor.  Lastly, be enthusiastic in all that you take on.  It can be hard to maintain an enthusiastic demeanor virtually, but if you can, it will transform your experience.

My supervisor during my time at ABT was Jon Haddorff in the Major Gifts department.  I had such a great experience being an intern in this department and loved being able to work with Jon.  He is open to suggestions and lets interns have many opportunities to grow.  I come from a program background and so very much appreciated his teaching me how the Major Gifts department worked, while also allowing me room to grow and take part in projects.

Hopefully, ABT will be able to go back to 890 Broadway soon, but in the meantime, I have found these lessons to be useful and adaptable to both virtual and in-person positions.


Sabrina Kesler

Major Gifts Intern

Fall 2020

It Takes a Village

22 May

My time at 890 Broadway was full of memorable experiences. My tasks included everything from donor prospect research to guiding donors through studio visits, basking in the beauty of excerpts from Giselle and Romeo and Juliet. Throughout my internship, I’ve marveled especially at the vast and vibrant teamwork taking place in the office, particularly within my development team and among organizational leadership.

When I joined ABT as the Major Gifts intern, I knew I was also joining a small team of development staff, having immediately received a warm welcome from the Associate Directors of Major Gifts, Diane Kuhl and Jon Haddorff. After our first department meeting, however, I realized that the team stretched farther than I could’ve imagined, encompassing not only major gifts, but also employees in membership, institutional support, database management, and special events. I was taken aback and inspired by realizing the massive number of people working towards the similar fundraising end goals. This team of supporters only continued to expand in my mind as I learned more about the organization.

A few weeks into my internship, we were visited in an intern meeting by Executive Director Kara Medoff Barnett. She walked us through her personal journey, sharing anecdotes about early experiences post-grad, her time as a producer both on and off Broadway, her position at Lincoln Center, and the shift to her current role at ABT, all while juggling motherhood and other personal triumphs. We all laughed and chatted as we absorbed her powerful advice and experience. Following the meeting, I went back to my desk and prepared some ticket order forms before the weekly development department meeting. Not one hour later, we were visited in this meeting by Kara as well, but this time immediate work at hand took precedence. She immediately shifted gears, discussing cultivation strategies and ABT’s diverse Board of Directors. Watching the seamless transition from lighthearted advice to stern and clear leadership, while remaining upbeat and optimistic, was quite special.

One thing I’ve been taught time and time again in school is that “no one owns a nonprofit,” and its success is reliant on the work of all team members; as an intern, I’ve felt this as I’ve continuously been encouraged to share questions and ideas as a valuable member of the development team. However, I think ABT pairs this well-balanced team with inspiring leadership, from both Kara and Artistic Director Kevin McKenzie. I knew I would be grateful for the opportunity to work with world-class artistry right at my fingertips, viewable even on the walk from my desk to the mailroom. But even now with COVID-19 having shifted the office to a remote setting, I am grateful to work with incredible staff members, from executives down to my fellow interns. Everyone offers something to learn, and just being present at these various meetings has taught me an incredible amount.

Emmalie Tello

Major Gifts Intern

Spring 2020

The Nutcracker

28 Oct

Every December since I was 5, I have performed in The Nutcracker.Truth be told, I have probably danced every single role in the show. Those memories have stuck with me forever; the copious amounts of hairspray in the backstage dressing rooms, the late night sewing of dozens of pointe shoes, and even the not so well-received peer pressuring of my brothers into acting as extras in the “Party Scene!” At the time, young, naive me could have never imagined where she would be right now, sitting at her desk just a few steps down the hall from where Misty Copeland is rehearsing to dance the role of Clara as a Principal Dancer at American Ballet Theatre, one of the world’s premier dance companies.As I sit at my desk writing renewal letters for the Major Gifts Department or filling out dancer sponsorship sheets on excel, I can hear Tchaikovsky’s music chiming from the pianists’ fingers, and as I walk to the copy machine, I can peer into the window of the rehearsal studio where Misty is practicing her graceful pirouettes and powerful leaps.

While I was searching for an internship, I had one primary goal in mind; I wanted to LEARN.I wanted to be in an environment that would challenge me to learn things I didn’t know, try things I had never done before, and see things I had never seen. As a senior finishing up my Bachelor’s degree, I was tired of sitting in a classroom 60 hours a week. I wanted to jump in the water and go for a swim.

To say the least, my experience as an intern at ABT has more than helped me accomplish that goal. With every project I have assisted on and every glamorous event I have attended, I have met new people who have taught me new things about not only surviving, but thriving, in the developmental side of the performing arts industry.

Every day I show up at 890 Broadway, I feel grateful to be stepping into such a lovely work environment with people who have truly given me the chance to succeed. I am proud of the work I have been lucky enough to contribute to such a magnificent organization, one in which I’ve been passionate about unknowingly since age 5 when I stepped on stage for the first time as a snow angel in The Nutcracker.


Josephine Smolsky

Major Gifts Intern

Fall 2019

A Night at the Met

2 Aug

Growing up, my dream was always to be on the Metropolitan Opera Stage dancing for one of the most world-renowned ballet companies, however when I stopped dancing, that dream suddenly became unattainable. When I first started my internship at American Ballet Theatre, I quickly realized that I would indeed be working at the Metropolitan Opera House, just on the administrative side.

Working in the Major Gifts Department has presented me with so many wonderful opportunities. Whether it’s casually passing by Misty Copeland at the Metropolitan Opera House or doing hours of research at 890 Broadway, I couldn’t be more grateful. One of the biggest highlights was giving a sponsor a personal backstage tour and seeing her dancer’s costume, hair, and makeup transformation for his role of Von Rothbart in Swan Lake. Putting all the glamour aside, I would have to say that my favorite part about my ABT experience is how they treat interns as equals. I wasn’t given menial tasks and felt as though I was truly contributing to the company and the projects that I was a part of.


ABT is my first internship and administrative job and I wouldn’t have it any other way. Being surrounded by people who share the same love and passion for Ballet as you do while working is amazing and rare to come by. Due to the amount of responsibility given to me, I have acquired new skills and I thank ABT, particularly Iosu, Diane and Jon for giving me guidance. ABT is truly a family.

Paige Stanton

Major Gifts Intern

Summer 2019


Gems of ABT

5 Dec

As I approach my final week here at ABT, I begin to reflect upon what an amazing experience these past 12 weeks have been. I’ve had the opportunity to work dress rehearsals, studio visits, the Fall Gala and assist in the day-to-day tasks of my department, Major Gifts. All in all, it’s been surprising, educational and above all incredibly memorable!

One of my most surprising, yet enjoyable, experiences was a closet cleaning project. Major Gifts is a sub department of Development and together we share a closet, or rather a small room. One day, all of the development interns were tasked to clean out said closet; clean being the imperative word, not organize! We spent the entire day going through boxes and files, cataloging, shredding and filing. Some of the gems we found include lost ABT water bottles, what seemed like thousands of plexi plastic cardholders, old programs, and dancer directories from years gone by! It was a fascinating to look into the history of this historic institution whilst simultaneously instilling order in the chaos caused by immense productivity.

To say that my internship at ABT has been an educational experience is an understatement – educational in the most delightful way that is! Dennis, the leader of the intern team and head of education makes every effort to teach us about the mechanics of a non-profit like ABT. During our weekly intern meetings we’ve had guest speakers from Kyle Pickles, the Company Manager, to Brendan Rosell from Marketing. Next week we’ll even have Kara Barnett our Chief Executive Officer! Our weekly intern meetings really make the experience holistic and have taught me how different departments work together to ensure ABT’s success.

A personal highlight for me this season was an exchange where we got to interact and befriend interns at Roundabout Theatre Company, a non-profit theatre group. We hosted them at the David H. Koch Theater and together saw a triple bill featuring Songs of Bukovina, In the Upper Room and a new piece by Michelle Dorrance. The night concluded with a backstage tour of the Koch Theater, it was amazing to see how the dancers see the audience from their point-of-view on stage; though, of course the theatre was empty!

I leave ABT having learnt so much about the non-profit world. Interning at ABT has been beyond terrific and definitely a dream come true; it is easily one of my most cherished experiences.

Lilli Wang

Major Gifts Intern

Fall 2018