By Megan Witos
Walls are ripped away, wires are exposed and dust litters the floors that have hosted iconic moments in time like the first two fights between Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier and John Lennon’s final concert appearance.
Madison Square Garden (MSG), the self-proclaimed “World’s Most Famous Arena” is undergoing a transformation. More than just the arena is being changed this season, however, as senior radio and TV major Raymond Strazdas has become the newest events and presentation production co-op for MSG Entertainment.
Strazdas’ personal transformation has brought him from making films in his backyard to the Jumbotron in MSG in just a few short years. His love for World Wrestling Entertainment and penchant for homemade YouTube videos quickly became a passion that he pursued further at Rider. Strazdas knew his future belonged in sports entertainment, and the Communication Department provided him with guidance and opportunities to help him along the path that eventually led to “the Garden.”
Dr. Aaron Moore, assistant professor of communication who aids in the internship and co-op process, stresses the importance of these extracurriculars for students who want to pursue careers in entertainment.
“It’s the business,” Moore said. “You will find no opportunities if you don’t have relevant experience.”
In his youth, Strazdas taught himself to film and edit while recording homemade wrestling videos in his backyard. Today he is gaining valuable experience for sports, concerts and live events by creating in-arena and on-air content, which will be broadcast to thousands live at MSG as well as to those viewing from home. Strazdas is grateful for the opportunity.
“It’s really awesome,” he said. “I couldn’t have asked for a better thing to do. Knowing the stuff I make is going to be seen by thousands at every event is unbelievable.”
Strazdas has the opportunity to see the crowd’s reaction to his work firsthand. He films live events and hangs out backstage to prepare for new projects.
Within his first full week at MSG, Strazdas has already completed and presented his first project, a college wrestling advertisement which will be shown on television and inside the Prudential Center during renovations at MSG. These sorts of projects are what he looks forward to the most, since wrestling events remain among his favorite types of entertainment.
According to Moore, Strazdas will be getting something more valuable out of his experience than just the joy of sharing his work with the world and doing something he loves.
“He’ll get the chance to say to future employers, ‘I’ve already done something similar. I can do more for you,’” Moore said.
Strazdas will be working at least 40 hours a week, if not more, throughout the semester. He will spend his time on the parts of his job he especially enjoys, such as traveling, meeting new people, helping backstage and working professional wrestling events. The fact that he’s earning 15 credits for his work as well as getting paid only sweetens the deal.
RJ Barkelew, a ’12 graduate and friend of Strazdas, joked that he was “a little jealous” of the opportunity Strazdas has, but even more so, he is proud of his success.
“I’m really happy that Ray is making a name for himself and taking the world by storm,” Barkelew said.
Strazdas stresses that any students who are able to should take advantage of the opportunity to do a co-op through Rider. According to Strazdas, it allows the student more real world experience and practical work application than internships normally do. A co-op differs from an internship in the time commitment it requires, generally demanding 30 to 40 hours a week, spending time gaining tangible work experience.
“It gives a preview of the amount of work that comes along with a full-time job so it’s not a surprise after graduating,” Strazdas said.
In addition to working at MSG, Strazdas also operates a website showcasing his personal videos, www.stingrayfilms.com, which is linked to his Facebook, Twitter and other social media sources.