Alumni successes in the music world from The UC Theatre intern program

The donor-supported training program at the nonprofit music venue on University Avenue has a high placement rate for its graduates.

Former interns Rebekah Gonzalez (right) and Rosy Wu work together during a lighting workshop at The UC Theatre. Credit: The UC Theatre

This story is brought to you by The UC Theatre Taube Family Music Hall.

The UC Theatre’s internship program has had incredible success helping young people find work in a field that they love, since it was launched in 2015. More than 80% of the interns find work in the industry after graduating from the 9-month, donor-supported program called Concert Career Pathways.

We recently spoke to alumni about the impact the program has had on their lives. 

Rebekah Gonzalez, 2019 graduate

“When I told my high school counselor that I wanted to go to school for music, he responded with, ‘You know, it’s very unlikely you’ll become the next Celine Dion.’ This was the first time I had spoken that dream out loud and I immediately regretted it. Where I’m from there are only two measures of achieving real success –– becoming a doctor or a teacher.” 

Rebekah found refuge in The UC Theatre’s Concert Career Pathways (CCP) Program three years ago. Her dream of working in the live music industry was embraced by The UC Theatre’s staff as they spent nine months nurturing her passion through rigorous industry training, alongside 21 other interns. 

As a multimedia and development intern, Rebekah gladly spent her weekends and free time at the music venue, working alongside industry professionals to photograph live concerts, develop and execute fundraising strategies, film promotional videos, and craft compelling emails. 

By the time the program was over, Rebekah had not only scored a job as a digital content producer at iHeartMedia, but she also gained a tight-knit family of peers and teachers, supporting her to this day as she continues to grow in her career.

“After graduating from the program, I finally feel like I’ve finally caught up with my dreams.”

Joshua Sifuentes, 2018 graduate 

Joshua Sifuentes, on stage. Credit: David Weiland

Joshua had just begun the program, with eyes eagerly set on his dream career in the world of music industry production. His goal was to join the union –– not only to fulfill his passion for music but to support his family with an income of his own at the age of 18. 

“My family’s money troubles came to a point where they couldn’t provide anymore so I decided to step in and start working more. Ever since I’ve been trying to provide my family with the money they need. It’s what’s pushing me to get as many jobs as I can.” 

With the support of CCP, Sifuentes found that he didn’t need to choose between being financially stable and being happy –– he could have the best of both worlds by pursuing a career in a field that brings him joy, surrounded by a community of friends and coworkers. Since graduating from the internship program four years ago, he has held a consistent House Management position for La Pena Cultural Center in Berkeley. He also picks up jobs as a lighting designer and electrician, working with the Local 16, the union of stage employees. 

131 trainees and growing

Over the past five and a half years, The UC Theatre’s Concert Career Pathways Program has guided 131 people through a rigorous career training program, enabling young people to break into the industry well equipped with work experience, tangible hands-on skills, killer resumes, and professional connections  –– not to mention an entire network of supportive mentors working to ensure all participants achieve relevant employment opportunities upon graduation. 

After completing the program, many interns are invited to continue working at the venue to advance their training –– currently, more than 20 past interns are working at The UC Theatre as stagehands, development and education staff, street team members, backstage managers, and more.  And they take on roles as mentors for new interns. These graduates stick around because they genuinely love the environment created at The UC Theatre. They are able and capable of finding employment elsewhere, but they stay to help build up The UC Theatre’s thriving community.

RJ Wilks, 2021 graduate

From left, former intern and now employee at The UC Theatre, Cheryl Cushing, with graduating RJ Wilks, and front of house manager Christian Lobo. Credit: David Weiland.

One of our recent graduates RJ has been working as a stagehand at The UC Theatre and has also worked at Stern Grove Festival, Noise Pop’s 20th Street Block Party in San Francisco, UltraSound Audio, the San Francisco Symphony, Taylor Street Production and August Hall. RJ gained access to these companies because of their affiliation with The UC Theatre. 

“Since graduating from the CCP program and working at The UC Theatre I have become enmeshed in a large-reaching web of kind people working in the Bay Area music scene. I regularly get gigs from my production managers and supportive coworkers that have vouched for me and want to see me get the kinds of opportunities I’m interested in. Without the CCP program, I would not have the community and practical tools to be part of making the magic that is live music happen. Being welcomed so warmly into The UC Theatre has only made me want to stick around to preserve the environment that I flourished under for future cohorts!”

The UC Theatre’s Education Director Shakeea T. Smith had a few words about RJ, “From the very beginning, RJ showed a “reach up and grab it attitude.” Their drive with just getting accepted into the program was unmatched. Months prior to the applications opening up, RJ reached out to our Education Department to make sure they were on our radar. They wanted to make sure they had a shot. Once RJ was accepted, we learned that RJ had moved in with a friend closer to The UC Theatre. That shows commitment and dedication. For someone that recently graduated our program to accomplish so much in so little time shows me that they are willing to climb that mountain and go the extra mile. RJ certainly has a promising future. RJ never ceases to amaze me.” 

Monica Motta, 2020 graduate

Monica Motta, Community Development Manager. Credit: The UC Theatre

Starting her internship two years ago, Monica Motta’s focus was on working in production but she unexpectedly found a passion for fundraising. Monica has worked her way up from development intern to associate and finally to manager.

“I never imagined that within two years of graduating college and the CCP Program that I would hold the title, Community Development Manager. I was nervous with each of my promotions, wondering if I was ready, but all The UC Theatre staff encouraged me and knew I could do it. The UC Theatre is a great place to learn and grow and it’s rewarding to see that I now get to help other interns, who were like me, find their passion in the music industry. This year I have been able to accomplish doubling our monthly donors, greatly increased show donations, and raised the most money we have ever had on GivingTuesday.”

More than 80% of CCP graduates go on to advance their careers at other establishments, including Another Planet Entertainment, East Bay Center for Performing Arts, California Shakespeare Theatre, The Fillmore and many more.  CCP provides participants with a diverse range of transferable skills that extend far beyond the music industry ––  interns are hired in jobs from grant writer to set designer to education assistant to tour manager. 

David M. Mayeri, founder and CEO of The UC Theatre, launched the first CCP Cohort as a pilot program known as the “Youth Advisory Board,” one year before opening The UC Theatre, alongside former Education Director, Robyn Bykofsky. Mayeri’s goal of removing the barriers into the music industry has come to fruition. Graduates of the program are able to share their stories now and for years to come about how they are living the lives they imagined. Passion combined with effort, diligence, and patience has paid off for many Concert Career Pathways participants. 

If you or anyone you know is interested in participating in the Concert Career Pathways program, please email Shakeea T. Smith, education director at Education@theuctheatre.org. Donations to support the program can be made at The UC Theatre website.

This story was written and paid for by The UC Theatre Taube Family Music Hall, whose mission is to present a vibrant range of live performances to advance the appreciation of music, culture and education in the Bay Area.