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Music Business Major Kirsten Calabrese Turns Her Dreams Into Reality

Despite the global pandemic, senior Music Business major Kirsten Calabrese has carefully crafted a career in the music industry these past few years by utilizing the Music Forward Foundation Career Development Series, completing three music business related internships, and applying to and becoming GRAMMY U’s Chicago Chapter Representative.

Growing up in the Chicago area and a graduate of St. Ignatius College Prep, her love of music was evident early on. “I've had a passion for music for as long as I can remember. I've always become attached to certain songs, albums, and artists that I connect with. I was a major fan of One Direction throughout my teenage years, and would coordinate fan projects, run a fan account, and locally promote them. So, the years of going to concerts and engaging with my favorite artists as a fan is where my interest really sparked.”

In early 2021, Kirsten received an email from her Internship & Career Advisor regarding a free music industry cohort. This eight-week immersive workshop that met for one hour once a week, gave her the needed confidence and connections to industry professionals. According to Kirsten. “I would consider the Music Forward Foundation to be my first exposure to a career in the music industry. Their Career Development Series gave me the foundation to present myself as an aspiring professional and helped to instill confidence in myself. Their workshops included resume building, interview tips, and developing your pitch, and I still refer back to what I learned in those workshops even today. I'd highly recommend their workshops and panels to anyone looking to take the first step in the music industry!”

From there, she quickly established herself with a variety of internships such as social media management with Wendy Starland, where she learned the true power of social media. Another was a business development internship with Fan To Band which, according to Kirsten, “They really solidified the fact that there was a spot for me as a fan and a creative in this industry. Nobody knows what fans are thinking and what they want better than fans themselves. This year culminated in yet another internship, this time with the Recording Academy as GRAMMY U’s Chicago Representative which, as Kirsten states, “Being able to kickstart my career in the world of music as a student has been a privilege, and I will forever be appreciative of the resources, tools, and networks I have acquired during the past eight months.”

Her internship with Grammy U led to her attending her first Grammy’s, something that to this day still feels like a dream. “I had no idea when I first joined the team that my fellow reps and I would have the opportunity to attend the Grammy's. So the first time I heard that, I honestly thought my supervisor was messing with us. When I realized that there was a chance to actually go, I was ecstatic. I don't think I could even form a coherent thought, other than ‘it's happening!’ I've watched the Grammy's every year since being a little girl, and it was just crazy to think that instead of dancing in front of my TV, I'd be sitting in the actual arena as a guest. It was a huge full-circle moment for me, and made me realize that I have a lot to be proud of. And it also reminded me how happy I was that I applied for the position in the first place.”

In addition to real-world industry experience, Kirsten cites the diverse number of classes she has taken as another key to success. “From Producing & Touring Live Entertainment with Jen Kellogg, Intro to Public Relations with Dominic Calabrese, and two courses with Loren Wells, my favorite thing about Columbia is how so many of my professors have so much insight and are still actively working jobs in the industry. You don't get much more hands-on than that.”

Regarding her future, Kirsten has several goals in mind. “My plans are to stay local in Chicago for the next year and keep honing my skills. I always want to soak up as much knowledge as possible and take every opportunity available. So I'm hoping to get into some freelancing with live events. I'll be working the Coldplay concerts over the summer with VIP Nation, and I'm excited about that! Long-term, I see myself living in either Los Angeles or Nashville, which I feel are the true hubs for the music business. I'd love to somehow merge different areas of the industry together. I think fan engagement and touring/live events have so much potential when they can be combined! My main goal (for the rest of my life, honestly) is just to appreciate all of these cool experiences, take my time, be more patient with myself, and keep up with my passion for music.”

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