Sue Buzzard is a violinist from the east coast currently interning with the Monterey Jazz Festival in Monterey, CA.  Since her graduation from the Berklee College of Music in May 2010, she sought more experience with the production side of music, and secured the Monterey opening through the Office of Experiential Learning

The Monterey Jazz Festival internship is offered each year from mid-August to mid-September.  The work focuses on the production of every aspect of the festival under the guidance of Monterey Jazz Festival staff. We’ll follow Sue leading up to, during and after the Festival to get a sense of what life is like as an intern at one of the longest running and most well-known jazz festivals in the country.*

This past Wednesday marked two weeks since officially starting my internship with the Monterey Jazz festival. Woohoo! After two weekends, one barbeque and a concert in Los Gatos with the Monterey County All-Star band, I’m still trying to get my head around how a production like this gets put on each year. There are eight people in the office besides myself:

Bill Wagner, the Production Manager (my boss!)
Chris Doss, Management Director
Paul, the Development Director
Rob Klevan, Educational Director
David Murray, Artist Liason
Tim Jackson, Artistic Director
Eva Quiroz-Mojica, Development Associate
Jan Stotzer, Administrative Assistant

The office is small, but comfy. It’s located on the upper floor of an outdoor-modeled office complex. One neat feature – the bathrooms for all the offices are downstairs on the first floor, which means that I get to walk outdoors in the fresh air a few times a day to go to the loo. The view fro the windows is great, too – mountains and hills and trees, a great place to walk around during your lunch break.

The Monterey Jazz Festival has a history of taking in interns from the Berklee College of Music. There’s a good connection between the festival and the school, which includes inviting an ensemble to perform at the festival every year. This year it’s the Berklee Flamenco group traveling with Mr. Rob Hayes (He’s super cool, in case you didn’t know. Meet this man). There’s also a scholarship in the name of Jimmy Lyons, the man who founded the festival all the way back in the mid 1950’s. Each year the full-tuition Lyons Scholarship is awarded to a student from the West Coast accepted to Berklee in the fall. I checked it out and was happy to see two string players on the list of past recipients – Rushad Eggleston in the early 2000s and Alex Hargreaves from 2011 – at Berklee this very moment!

I’m pretty amazed to find myself here. Four months ago I had no idea this position existed! I received an email from the Berklee Office of Experiential Learning about an internship that went into the month of September – so it was only available to students NOT taking fall classes. I applied, and within one week Bill Wagner was calling for an interview. I was excited to get the job, more so because it was a paid position at the oldest consecutive jazz festival in the country! (Newport is actually older, but not consecutive – it stopped running for a few years)

My work thus far with the festival has included lots of entry in the database. Bill has recently incorporated an online cloud program into the festival, putting everything the festival does in one place on the web for everyone to access. Sweet. After working on so many projects, I’m amazed to think that only a handful of years ago most of the work was done on paper or by excel sheets on individual networks! Dataflow is the way to go. I did not mean to make that rhyme, by the way.

I’ve been writing down assignments in a little notebook to keep track of them and take notes on what Bill needs done. One unfortunate side of being the intern is that I’m not as in the know about the operations around here as Bill or anyone else. So I have limited knowledge of how to complete tasks, or how to figure out what needs to be done. I’m constrained by what I don’t know and can’t figure out – I have to ask Bill what he needs to be done, and then learn how to do it, like entering figures in datafow and learning how to upload/save records. There are lots of monotonous, repetitive tasks to be done just to get things in line before the festival starts – credential orders, equipment backlines for each band, hotel room reservations, tech riders separated by stage (that was my first assignment!) – lots of endurance-type jobs that last for hours, but that I’m very good at so long as I get to listen to music and am left alone. So some days I finish jobs before Bill has something else in line for me to do. I’ve helped other folks in the office with tasks too, simple things like stuffing envelopes and counting room reservations on lists.

The thing that I try to make myself remember is that I want to learn just what goes into putting on a big production like this. There are LOTS of corners to draw together to make it happen – not just on the music production front, but on the vendor front, the Premier Access front, the alumni front, the Board of Directors front – the larger a project is, the more people are involved in it. And the more people are involved, the more there are to thank and provide bonus services to. So there are more people to hire for those things, and more people to manage the extra staff. This isn’t even including volunteers for services relating to guests – to people who actually BUY TICKETS to attend the festival and listen to the musicians invited to play.

I like that working from this end of the spectrum helps me better understand just which part of music I enjoy being involved in. On the other side of this festival are the artists who come to play, their managers, their agents, their people who have the job of bringing THEM to US, and other concerts/festivals/events all over the country. It ranges from small-time bands to big names, from one man bands to Huey Lewis and the News. It’s like looking through glass to the world I used to be all about – the performing, the touring, the booking…oh, Lord, the booking…and now I see it from the other side, and I think having experiences in both helps me know how to bring a really good show together. I know what they need and what we need.

Oh man, compensation for artists…contracts….a whole different world I had never encountered before! That was an interesting day – I had to separate all artist contracts be stage and put them into new separate file folders. I held so many famous players’ contracts in my hands…I flipped through Herbie Hancock’s contract, India.Arie’s, Sonny Rollins’… some were thick, some were thin, all had detailed language that I couldn’t work out… but I feel comfortable around contracts now, more so than I did. This experience is fantastic!

The days run by quickly and I try to keep track of the work I get done. I’m lucky enough to be staying at the house of a board member. It’s in Pacific Grove, a suburb of Monterey just blocks from the beach. Fog interferes with most outside exploring, but I try to get out each day. Completely detaching myself from the festival after work helps me re-enter invigorated each day.

It’s the weekend now, and this past thursday Bill and I moved our office over to the fairgounds – now we’re on site and can handle setup much faster. I kinda miss the old office, but this means that we’re getting close to crunch time. Only 9 days until festival week starts! I’m going to try to keep track of this experience much more closely from now on.

More updates to come! In the meantime, check out some Hiromi on grooveshark. I can’t wait to see her play LIVE!!


*Reposted with permission from Sue Buzzard


Sue Buzzard is a warrior of the acoustic string music revolution.  Following her studies in classical and jazz music techniques in her hometown of Buffalo, NY, she studied a plethora of violin sounds at The Berklee College of Music.  Sue graduated with a double degree in Violin Performance and Professional Music in the spring of 2010, and has since been performing and seeking more ways to bring string music to the masses through production and education.  Sue is on faculty at The Rivers School Conservatory in Weston starting this fall, where she will teach Jazz Violin.