Grad Student Shares Passion for Arts and Education

By Steven Dawson
November 22, 2011

The number one rule that all students are supposed to follow in graduate school is, “Don’t overextend yourself.” It seems that arts management grad student Jennifer Glinzak has thrown that bit of advice right out the window. On top of her full-time class load, she works 20 hours each week as a graduate fellow, is on the Graduate Student Council, volunteers on the Emerging Arts Leaders Symposium leadership committee, and performs with the AU Chamber Singers.

What is your history before attending American University?

I went to Chapman University for my undergraduate work. I earned two bachelor’s degrees, one in music education with a vocal emphasis and the other in music performance with an instrumental conducting emphasis. After graduating, I worked at the Orange County Youth Symphony Orchestra for a year as their general manager. After my tenure expired there, I went over to the Irvine Young Concert Artists and Irvine Young Junior Artists to be their general manager. And all the while I worked at Disneyland to help pay the bills, like any good southern Californian would.

Was there a particular reason to pursue the two bachelor degrees?

I originally went to Chapman for a choral conducting degree, but one thing led to another and I ended up getting the vocal education degree. Then I was later accepted into the instrumental conducting program. Apparently, my stick hand is better than just my plain hand, so it worked out pretty well for me. I was considering a career in conducting opera and large works. But, as it turns out, I get stage fright, and I didn’t find that out until I had really gotten into conducting. That’s when I decided that it was better for me to work behind the curtain and not in front of it.

Why are you pursuing a master’s degree in arts management from AU?

I came to American University because I have an opportunity to add a policy emphasis and participate in an internship in a policy field. What I truly want to do is make a difference in arts education on the policy level and the law level. I want to change the teaching rules, as well strengthen them and enforce them. I don’t want them just to be there and teachers say, “There’s no way we can do that,” like the California standards which have no bearing on what you do in a music class.

Can you elaborate on that? What would you change?

In a choral classroom, to actually hit all of the required standard teaching points, you would only be able to do about 10 minutes of actual rehearsing. It would basically be a lecture with 10 minutes of rehearsing. That doesn’t teach music. That’s teaching history; that’s teaching theory. That’s teaching everything else. Yes, music history and theory are important things, but I think they should be separate classes. That is why they have the AP theory tests, for those kids who do actually have access to music theory.

I think that arts classrooms in general should be structured differently. There is not enough time for the arts in schools, period. And there is even less time for these standards to be implemented without actually making the art itself suffer. It takes away from getting those kids that creative expression and creative outlet.

After you graduate, what do you want to do?

The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) is my ultimate goal. I would love to be the Director of Education at the NEA. And if not, I would like to be the person who stands on Capitol Hill and lobbies to switch the defense spending budget with the arts and education budget. Seriously though, I do want to lobby, and I do want to see social change. And that is one of the reasons I am here, so I can get to that platform. I would like to get out there and speak about the issues, maybe even do arts advocacy with Americans for the Arts or some other advocacy group.

Some people need us to speak for them. For example, my mom is a teacher in an underprivileged school, and she teaches ESL (English as a Second Language) students. Once, some of these kids sat down and when my mom gave them crayons they didn’t know what they were for because they’ve never seen them. This is the extreme case, but I do want to give underserved and underprivileged children access to art and allow them that creative expression. A lot of these kids that my mom teaches don’t even graduate from high school. Many of them end up involved in drugs, gang-related activities, teen pregnancy, and other hard times because of their demographic, and that’s just not right or fair.

You are the graduate fellow in the music department, right? Tell me about what you do.

I am the choral manager for the AU chamber singers and AU chorus. Basically what I do is take care of everything choir related. I am in charge of managing the library, which we are re-vamping right now. I also take care of all of the dresses and the publications. I am basically the middleman between directors Daniel Abraham and Laura Petravage and everyone else. If they need something, I do it for them. And if somebody else needs something from them, I relay it back to them. It’s very rare that communication doesn’t go through me.

Jennifer Glinzak is currently nearing the end of her first semester in the two year Arts Management Master’s Program at AU and plans on graduating in May 2013.