I have been a Kennedy Center intern for precisely five business days, and so far the nation’s capital has proven a treasure trove of unexpected sights:
- An oboe involved in resistance against the Nazis
- Jascha Heifetz‘s personal collection of music-themed postage stamps
- “The Paganini of the Steelpan”
- A detailed map of Washington, D.C. embroidered by a twelve-year-old girl in 1800
- The ambassador of the Slovak Republic
- The world’s largest potato
What a city!
My internship is in the Press Office, specifically assisting the press reps for the National Symphony Orchestra and the Washington National Opera. I have my own desk, an official KC e-mail, an ID badge and everything. It’s insane. I am 100%, not at all, in any way, qualified for this internship — and I am just so humbled and excited to have this opportunity.
Press, I have learned, falls under the purview of Public Relations. Many organizations lump PR in with Marketing, but the two categories couldn’t be more different. Marketing is active self-promotion to increase sales; PR is interaction with the public to encourage goodwill. A PR representative might contact a press outlet to pitch a story or review, but it’s up to the writer — not the rep — whether that story or review portrays the organization in a positive light. The rep’s job, then, is to seek out stories worth writing about, and writers genuinely interested in the organization’s services. This way, the public can be well informed about what the organization has to offer, via an outlet (the press) that is independent of the organization and therefore an unbiased source.
My job so far has comprised a great deal of filing, which might be boring if it weren’t for the fact that I get to comb through Playbills from the 1970’s, which has proven to be highly entertaining. (Ads spotted: tons of cigarettes, a clothing store for “large women,” and mail-order Romanian wine.) I’m also responsible for something called “paste-ups”: any time the Kennedy Center or one of its productions is mentioned in an online press outlet, I copy and re-format the text and images into a neat, standardized document for board-member “brag books” and archival purposes. I even had the chance to sit in on the big televised Memorial Day concert on the Capitol lawn. Eventually, I’m told, I’ll get to draft some press releases. Exciting stuff!
The Kennedy Center is the country’s most active performing arts facility, and it’s amazing to be part of the behind-the-scenes work that brings it all together. Press is so important to a performing arts organization — spreading the word, generating interest and curiosity and buzz, inviting the community to learn and explore and enjoy the organization’s resources — and I can’t wait to learn more about how it all works in the coming months.