WCC student gains a ‘voice’ overseas

By Laura Mortkowitz

While the majority of students on Rider’s campuses were attending classes and spending a typical weekend on February 6-10, junior Jonathan Slawson was in Caen, France.

But it wasn’t a vacation for him. Slawson, a music education major with a minor in arts administration at Westminster Choir College, attended the first International Forum – Voice, Youth and Arts Management sponsored by the prestigious International Federation for Choral Music.

“Aside from my plane ride, which I paid for, everything was free because in Europe the government subsidizes art more than [in] America,” Slawson said. “So the French government paid for everything, including my hotel and my food and my travel, in France.”

Students from 40 countries — only three from the United States — attended the three-day forum that included discussions and lectures on such topics as intercultural arts management and choral organizations. They had the unique opportunity to meet managers of major choral projects, senior executives of principal international arts institutions and local political personalities.

“We talked about new ways of marketing the choral arts, and we discussed the differences between arts administration in Europe and arts administration in America,” Slawson said.

Another topic brought up was the meaning of “youth.” As a 21-year-old, Slawson found that he was probably the youngest person at the forum, where the average age was 25 or 30. Youth in Europe meant that the person felt young, whereas youth in Africa simply meant a person wasn’t married, he said.

“Youth in America tends to be younger than youth abroad,” he said. “One of the things we discussed was the cultural meaning of youth in each part of the world.”

The students also heard concerts, including the French choral ensemble Mikrokosmos, and attended internship market fairs.

“I set up a few internship opportunities that I may take when I graduate,” Slawson said. “One is in Hungary, in a castle, actually. Interns get to stay there for free and it sounds like a great opportunity.”

He was also able to speak with a professor from the University of Chicago about graduate school decisions.

Although the three days were mostly work — starting at 8 a.m. and going until 10 p.m. — Slawson did get to know the attendees from the other countries.

“It was the busiest week of my life and I learned so much my head was about to explode,” he said. “So at night I would go out for a drink with people from all around the world and discuss issues.”

The topic of going out at night actually proved to be a humorous part of the inevitable language barrier on the first night.

“A guy asked me if I wanted to have an orgy and I looked at him and I was, like, ‘What are you talking about? No,’” Slawson said. “He was from a European country and it just means going out for drinks.”

Since the basis of the forum was to support youth interested in arts management by giving them training, the attendees were given a lot of attention outside of the scheduled events.

“One of the things that I loved about the forum is that all of the professionals that were there, when they weren’t teaching a class, were there to help you,” Slawson said. “So I got to schedule private meetings, which will really help me pursue my goals.”

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