Students will get backstage view of Britt

Music festival program designed to put spotlight on arts career options

Adozen Medford School District high school juniors and seniors will get the opportunity to learn how the Britt Festival operates beginning in June and then create their own musical presentation in June 2015.

A $28,500 Oregon Arts Commission grant to Britt will fund the program targeted to introduce students to arts employment opportunities.

"We want them to get a full year's experience of what it means to be a nonprofit arts organization," said Rachel Jones, the festival's director of education and community engagement.

Funds for the new "Connecting Students to the World of Work" program were approved by the Oregon Legislature as part of the state's 40-40-20 graduation goals.

Students will probably learn about the program in early February, said Todd Bloomquist, district secondary education director. Britt and the district will work together to speak to classes.

"There are lots of programs for career technical education. This is a nice kind of additional part where it's about careers in the arts," said Bloomquist. "One of the key things is that this really focuses on next-step options for kids, whether they are going on to school or going to industry."

A teacher in the district will be selected to coordinate the program with Britt. Specific program and class time structure have yet to be determined.

Before the summer session begins, as part of the selection process, students will already have created application materials as if they were seeking a job. School representatives will work with students on cover letters, resumes and other materials.

English language learners, special needs students, traditionally underserved minorities and low-income socioeconomic groups are eligible for the program.

"Part of the government's priorities is to reach students who may not have as many opportunities," said Jones.

During summer, students will meet with and shadow guest artists, music directors and anyone involved during the busiest part of the festival's year.

During the offseason, they will spend time in each department's office.

The program will culminate in a show that the students will produce in the Britt Performance Garden in June 2015. Guided by staff, the students will complete all steps required to bring the concert to fruition, including creating a budget, selecting and hiring guest artists, fundraising, marketing, house management and production for their event.

A current college internship program brings in about 10 speakers in areas such as marketing, executive leadership and personnel so that students get a sense of carrier opportunities that may be available, said Jones. The new program will build on the current one.

During the school year, Jones estimated, the students will put in about five hours per week. During summer, the festival and district will work out schedules based on student lives that may include other obligations.

The grant covers all supplies and expenses for the students, fees for guest speakers, all costs associated with the student-produced event and staff time for the district coordinator.

Britt and Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland were two of eight organizations in the state that received a total of $281,535 in grants for the new "working in the world" projects.

Tony Boom is a freelance writer living in Ashland. Reach him at tboomwriter@gmail.com.


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