Colburn Alumni Take Back the Narrative with New Podcast

So, How’s That Going? is Colburn’s first podcast, envisioned as a series of insightful and inspiring conversations with alumni.

Allow us to introduce So, How’s That Going?—Colburn’s first alumni-powered podcast and a joint project between the Alumni Office and the Center for Innovation and Community Impact (CICI). Envisioned as a series of insightful and inspiring conversations with alumni, So, How’s That Going? premiered on April 3 with a debut episode featuring voices of former dance and music students as they wrestled with the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The podcast seeks to take back the narrative on what a life after a performing arts education really looks like, from landing the job to navigating the community. The title itself is a nod to the often-skeptical response even the most accomplished alumni of an arts education might expect to field.

Over a series of production meetings, what began conceptually as a collection of professional development webinars that would be produced by CICI evolved into a format that put the experts front and center. The stories of our alumni community continue to unfold far beyond Grand Avenue. Alumni are on the stages of New York City, in the labs at Northwestern, in classrooms in Georgia, on the silver screen worldwide, pursuing virtual business ventures, and more. And while our world-class staff provides excellent professional development know-how, we look for ways to strengthen the alumni network and to inspire each other.

Dr. Nate Zeisler, the Dean of Community Initiatives, has worked for years to provide professional development resources to our students, and the recent formation of the Center for Innovation and Community Impact as well as the Alumni Office has made it easier to adapt these resources into useful tools for alumni.

The Alumni Office works to help alumni build and maintain networks with others passing through the school’s hallways as well as to offer resources and direction in navigating the great hallways beyond. One meaningful tool that can serve both of these causes is mentorship. Establishing a connection between one alumni and another, each with their own unique experience or cachet that the other can tap into, can be the basis for long-lasting relationships. So, the question shifted from “What can we do to guide alumni?” to “How can we empower alumni to guide one another?”.

Prior to the COVID-19 closures, the podcast’s inaugural guest was appropriately the first piano alumnus of the Conservatory, David Fung (Conservatory ’09). David’s remarkable story took him from medical school to music and then around the world. He now splits his time between New York City and a faculty position at the University of Georgia. Given the current state of the performing arts and the world at large, we opted to take a cue and match the conversation that was already on everyone’s lips. We reached out to alumni Anatalia Hordov (Dance Academy ’16), Nicholas Rose (Dance Academy ’15), and the members of the Calidore Quartet (Conservatory ’16) to see how they were being affected and ask their advice for young alumni going through such unexpected and drastic changes.

Dr. Zeisler, who also guested on the first episode to provide broad perspective on the situation, later remarked, “I hope that this podcast will help unify our strong network of working artists and enable all of us to learn from alums who have created wonderful careers in the performing arts.”

While So, How’s That Going? is driven by and for alumni, the benefit of hearing their stories and sharing their insights resonates across every layer of the Colburn community. For our current students, we hope the podcast serves as a way to stay connected to the friends, faculty, and families surrounding them even after they leave and find connections out in the working world. For our families, we hope that it gives a sense of the beneficial consequence of a performing arts education and the community it sustains. For our faculty and staff, we hope it renews their passion for hearing about the accomplishments of artists that their work supported and nurtured on campus. And for our friends in the community at large, we are excited to introduce you to some of the incredible artists and humans that Colburn has nurtured over its history.

Chicago-based journalist Sydney J. Harris once wrote, “The whole purpose of education is to turn mirrors into windows.” A performing arts education is not without its challenges—real or perceived—in opening those windows to long-term success and growth in a modern world. As the recent pandemic has reminded us, we’re all in this together. Hours spent in practice rooms and preparing for performance hone the craft but don’t always tap into the resource that is the person in the next studio over.

So, How’s That Going? aims to open a window into those lives and gives everyone the opportunity to see what’s possible when we can really connect.

Listen to the first episode now and stay tuned for the next quarterly episode featuring David Fung this coming July.