Getting out of your comfort zone to discover new opportunities
by Drew Holmes
“It looks like the interview will last 20 minutes. What do you think they will ask me?”
“Tell the story of how you found the listing. Just be yourself.”
Jamie, my wife, was interviewing for a job she had not known existed and was, understandably, a bit nervous. Kids and COVID saw her working the last few years remotely and the chance to directly utilize her library degree and experience in a relevant in-person role was an unexpected opportunity.
While this position is with our local school system and I interact with district music teachers regularly, neither she nor I know anyone in this department. Earning this job would be the equivalent of a cold call.
I faced a similar situation in college.
It was sophomore year and, finally deciding on a minor in Arts Administration, I needed an internship as part of my coursework. My roommate, Geoff, offhandedly mentioned that if I found summer work in Philadelphia, I could live with him on the New Jersey side of the Delaware River. Excited at the possibilities, I blindly submitted a letter to the Philadelphia Orchestra. To my surprise, an invitation to an interview arrived in my mailbox a few days later.
The day of the meeting arrived and, driving directions in hand, trepidation set in as I headed south on the NJ Turnpike. I had never even been to Philadelphia before. I felt like I had jumped out of an airplane in the hopes of finding a parachute on the way down.
As my tiny Volkswagen navigated the streets of Center City, I located the parking garage across Locust Street from the Academy of Music. The office for the interview was in an adjacent building, and my piece of paper instructed me to “cross the arcade and take the elevators”. Not seeing any video game machines, I was puzzled for a few minutes. Eventually piecing together that an architectural arcade is basically a covered walkway, I located the elevators and was soon in the office.
The initial interview went well, and they wanted me to meet the Principal Librarian to explore the possibility of a summer internship. Undeterred by not knowing why an orchestra had a library I agreed. We walked out of the office, through the stage door, and across to stage right. A nondescript metal door greeted us, behind which was a small staircase that twisted around up and to the left. At the top of the stairs was the Philadelphia Orchestra Library and seated at a large wooden desk was its Principal Librarian, Clint Nieweg.
We hit it off immediately and he offered me an internship on the spot. During that summer I learned more about composers, repertoire, and music publishing than all my classwork combined. Clint became a great mentor and friend, and that summer internship was the catalyst for everything that happened after, including orchestra library jobs in Brooklyn, NY, and Naples, FL, as well as owning a music store today.
Putting myself out there was no easy thing. I knew no one in the orchestra and had no experience in the city. Walking into the office I did not know that orchestras had librarians or libraries. Getting out of my comfort zone and being open to new experiences set my life on a trajectory working jobs I did not know existed in places I had not imagined, meeting interesting people and having exciting adventures along the way.
Two days after her interview, Jamie sent me a text message.
“They offered me the job!”
I could not be more excited for her and this unexpected opportunity. No matter what happens next, jumping into the unknown and finding a parachute is a tremendous accomplishment. I’m proud of her and what she has achieved and cannot wait to see where it will lead.