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Youth Voices: The ChiMOP Alumni Internship Program
Ciera Henderson, Alumni Intern, Chicago Metamorphosis Orchestra Project
During the fall of 2020, I participated in the Chicago Metamorphosis Orchestra Project’s (ChiMOP) new Alumni Internship Program (CAIP). CAIP was designed to offer recent ChiMOP graduates hands-on leadership experience during program hours as well as introductory-level job experience behind the scenes—helping staff with everything from lesson planning to administrative tasks. I signed up to gain experience, having never done anything like this before (unless you count trying to teach small groups of little ones while still a student myself). At first, it was a difficult adjustment. I worried that it would be a lot of work that didn’t come naturally to me. But despite some early struggles, I had a good time doing it—especially sharing the experience with the other interns.
It helped to have a clear schedule. Announcements before Monday and Friday classes guided our preparation for each day’s lesson. We would then attend our sectional classes, each intern with their own instrument section. Sitting with the violins, I would offer examples of how a part of the music should sound or look—for example, how to play a couple of measures, or what the patterns of a certain rhythm were. On Thursdays and sometimes Tuesdays, the interns and organizers would meet to go over what we had done in our sectionals and to plan upcoming events. Toward the end of the internship, interns co-hosted events such as our Holiday Party, where we oversaw activities like a talent show and holiday costume competition. We also hosted a Watch Party (streamed on Facebook), where attendees enjoyed a compilation video of everyone playing the piece we had been working on, “Cielito Lindo.” I really enjoyed the Watch Party because it showed off all the hard work everyone had put in over the past semester.
Above all, the internship helped me improve my speaking and self-confidence. At first, I doubted my voice and really didn’t like speaking to large groups of people. Now I speak more confidently and am more comfortable giving feedback. As an instructor, I notice more during rehearsals, and I share my thoughts so others can benefit, making sure to compliment something when it is really good. Having been on both sides of the music stand, I know the difficulties students face while practicing, and which exercises will benefit them.
My strongest takeaway from the internship is the value of paying attention, especially when others are playing. It not only helps those who are struggling; it improves your own playing as well. And perhaps most importantly, I learned to work through my doubts and enjoy the experience. Just because a role carries responsibility doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy it. You can create a great experience for yourself and others by just having fun.