This fall, with funding support from MMI, Memphis Slim House programming and marketing director and Music Engagement Teaching Fellow Tonya Dyson launched an internship program around the production of the Soulsville USA Festival. This month we asked two of the interns to write about their experience planning and executing a large community festival over the last year.
My first experience with the internship was amazing. I didn't really know what to expect on the first day & was nervous about meeting new people outside of the other interns selected from my school, Booker T Washington. We were always given a chance to work as individuals and as a team on festival planning & case studies. I can say that this internship was my very first opportunity to learn what it's like to work with a team and it helped me better my communication skills. I also learned how to be assertive and speak up when I had good ideas. We spent four and a half months learning about the different aspects of marketing and event production. Every week, we worked on a different task in preparation for the festival. We started by looking at other festivals that were similar in size and mission to build the perfect website for our festival. We were a part of committee meetings & volunteer orientation. We managed smaller music events at Memphis Slim House during the summer. The most fun part was taking trips to places like Court Square to sample food trucks for our festival's food court! We learned how to build content for the festival's social media pages and website (once it was up). We took tours of Stax Museum of American Soul Music and LeMoyne-Owen College to learn about the rich history of the neighborhood. We were always surrounded by music in the museum or during our weekly sessions at Slim House- bands rehearsed downstairs and we had the chance to interact with them. Lastly, participating in this internship allowed me to gain a better understanding about the life behind music. I've lived in the area known as Soulsville all of my life and never knew how many great musicians and singers lived on my same block. I never knew that so many wonderful things and people sprang up in South Memphis- like me and the other interns. I believe that helped us see something special in ourselves. I would love to do this again because the people who made the 2016 festival happen have changed me for the better and have helped me gain a lot of experience in something I never imagined myself knowing how to do. I would also like to use this opportunity to investigate my career interests and prospective goals. - Shatanique B., Booker T. Washington High School
I feel my experience as an intern for the Soulsville USA Festival will help me achieve more on a higher level as a student, football player and as a future business owner. During my time there I learned everything about managing large events from planning to implementation. We always joked that Ms. Dyson treated us like she was Mr. Miyagi [Karate Kid] using a 'wax on, wax off' approach to teaching us. We didn't realize that the small tasks we were learning, put together, were the entirety of the festival & were essential to its success. That was a huge takeaway for me and I try to apply that lesson I learned to life in general. Being a part of the program helped me in the growth of my leadership skills. I watched how Ms. Dyson worked with a large scale of people and brought all of their ideas together to create something special for the neighborhood. I didn't know that we would have as big a say in the decisions made for the festival but she always made sure we had input & always expressed how much we (and our opinions) really mattered. I learned how to better work with others when I was selected to work with a group of kids from my neighborhood that I didn’t know . I learned how to adjust to everyone's personality and character to create something we all will remember forever. I'm positive this well help me in college and beyond. I look forward to returning home in the years to come and being part of the neighborhood festival that I and the other interns helped build! - Johnathan B., Central High School