spotlight-category: Music

Chris Coffey ’17

Semester in Washington, D.C., gave GWU alumnus valuable experience in music industry

“I can honestly say that every professor in the music department has made some impact on my life, whether they know it or not.”

During his last semester at Gardner-Webb University, Chris Coffey ’17 worked with one of the top music businesses in the country. As an intern at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C., he worked directly with professional musicians, and helped schedule concerts for the Youth Fellowship program. “I constantly learned about arts administration and the practices of a successful arts organization,” shared the Morganton, N.C., resident. “I could not praise the staff at the Kennedy Center enough. Everyone was kind, helpful, and willing to share their immense knowledge of the industry.”

Coffey also developed organizational and multitasking skills, which are crucial to his new job as education and community engagement coordinator for the Western Piedmont Symphony (WPS) in Hickory, N.C. Coffey is responsible for scheduling various events, including educational concerts for the orchestra, community events for the string quartet and concerts for the youth symphony. They play for large and small audiences, adults and children. Coffey has also planned travel arrangements to Germany for four members of the youth symphony.

“This job has been a huge step up in responsibility for me,” he said. “Sometimes it can be very challenging, but I work with a dedicated team of people who inspire me to improve myself every day. The greatest motivator for me is to see the positive impact that our programs make in the community. I hope to continue spreading goodwill and making a difference in people’s lives through music.”

Aside from planning events, he has learned to write grant applications. Ingrid Keller, WPS Executive Director, has taught him about how nonprofit organizations fund their projects and receive support from charitable foundations. “Grant writing is an important skill to develop in the arts industry,” Coffey affirmed. “Under Ingrid’s wing, I have been fortunate enough to write several successful applications, receiving financial support for some of my projects.”

Coffey believes his education along with the hands-on experience he received at the Kennedy Center gave him the foundation he needed for the work he does every day. “Understanding music and its importance in our community allows me to write genuine and compelling requests to support our programs,” Coffey explained. “My business classes gave me all the tools I need to work effectively in the office.”

He was very active in the GWU music department, playing horn and mellophone in the orchestra, the Marching Bulldogs, Symphonic Band, and Broad River Brass. Gardner-Webb offered a Community School of Music, and the Department of Music often collaborated with local musicians and groups, allowing him to see the importance of developing partnerships.

His GWU music professors also used their connections to help him find the internship. Dr. Patricia Sparti, professor of music, and Jondra Harmon, instructor of music, helped him with the application process and recommended him to the Kennedy Center. Dr. Bruce Moser, assistant professor of music, helped him prepare his writing sample. Coffey noted, “I can honestly say that every professor in the music department has made some impact on my life, whether they know it or not.”

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Chris Farthing ’09

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