Student Spotlight: Abbey Davis
Ohio-native and clarinetist Abbey Davis is currently pursuing her B.A. in Music with a minor in Non-Profit Studies. During the academic year, she studies clarinet with Amitai Vardi and performs in several ensembles, including the Kent State Orchestra, Wind Ensemble, New Music Ensemble and Clarinet Choir. She is also an active member of the Kent Clarinet Association, Kappa Kappa Psi and Delta Omicron. Outside of Kent State, she teaches private students and runs sectionals at Hudson High School and the Western Reserve Academy. As a performer, she regularly plays in the Western Reserve Academy pit orchestra and subs with the Chagrin Valley Studio Orchestra, NEO Sound and a local community band.
Currently, she is spending her second summer as a student assistant with the Kent Blossom Music Festival, Kent State’s education and performance partnership with The Cleveland Orchestra in residence at the School of Music June 30-Aug. 1.
We recently sat down with Abbey to talk about her experience in our B.A. program, the Non-Profit Studies minor and her time with the Kent Blossom Music Festival. Read excerpts from the interview below!
You recently switched to the B.A. in Music. What drew you to that degree program?
Abbey Davis: What drew me to the B.A. program is how versatile it is. I have found that if you use the open curriculum to fit your interests, you can really set yourself up for a great career path that is totally and completely up to you. It has given me the opportunity to take classes in areas that are important to me such as Women’s Studies, Black Experience, LGBTQ Studies and American Politics. It has really forced me to discover my own path.
Along with that, you’re also minoring in Non-Profit Studies. What is that curriculum like?
AD: Yes, I just recently added the Non-Profit Studies minor! I am so excited about it because I get to learn about the many ways I can find and build opportunities for musicians in the field. I am learning about what it takes to run a nonprofit, which includes orchestras, music festivals, and even music schools.
I have learned about implementing change, fundraising and grant writing, community outreach, organizational budgeting, how to work with others to better an organization and so much more. I have learned that every organization must have a mission and everything you do should be done with that mission in mind. This has really helped me prepare for the internship part of the program, which has an end goal of being able to run the organization you are interning for. It is extremely intense, rewarding, and hands-on.
In 2018, you were one of the student assistants for the Kent Blossom Music Festival (KBMF). What initially interested you in the position and the festival? Did your experience feed into your decision to pursue your new degree path?
AD: So many things attracted me to the Kent Blossom Music Festival! I don’t think many students realize how special this partnership with The Cleveland Orchestra is for our school and for our education. I found out about the festival my first year when I came into the music building over the summer to practice and I noticed that I was surrounded by extremely talented musicians. They took up all the practice rooms! I talked to former KBMF Assistant, Liz Carney (M.M. ‘15), and she told me about the festival and the partnership with The Cleveland Orchestra. I thought it was the coolest thing ever because I was so obsessed with The Cleveland Orchestra at that time. So the next year, I interviewed for the job after talking to my woodwind quintet coach, Mrs. Danna Sundet (Artistic Coordinator of KBMF and Kent State Associate Professor of Oboe). I didn’t get the job the first year, but Ricardo Sepúlveda (Director, Kent Blossom Music Festival) and Mrs. Sundet both encouraged me to try again. It was a lot of work to build up my resume but I was so happy to get an offer last summer.
The experience was truly the most incredible time of my life. The students are so hardworking and talented and the faculty is so kind and inspiring. The KBMF team is truly a family to me. There were so many times throughout the year where we would all get together for “family nights,” go to breakfast or something else fun. We all know how special this festival is and we have a common purpose, which is to give the students and faculty the best experience possible. Although I had worked in administrative positions before and wasn’t sure it was something I wanted to continue, my experience with KBMF changed my mind.
The festival and the example Ricardo, Mrs. Sundet, and Tahira have set for me are the reason I changed major. Before I switched, I talked to two of my biggest mentors, Ricardo and Jenna Bice (Senior Advisor, Online MMME), and they encouraged me to take the leap and I will always be grateful for their support and guidance.
What were some of your responsibilities with KBMF?
AD: There are so many things to do to prepare for a five-week chamber music festival! It’s mostly about working as a team with everyone and ensuring that when the students and faculty arrive, everything is set and ready to go so they can have a great experience. Some of this included scanning music, making lesson and coaching schedules, copying scores, making signs and hanging them around the school, preparing binders and materials for students, helping to record concerts, and also being a friendly and helpful hand for anything the students or faculty may need. Communication and preparation are two of the most important duties of this job. It takes a lot of focus and flexibility.
How is your second summer working with KBMF so far? What are you looking forward to this season?
AD: It’s going really well so far! This year I am doing an internship with KBMF, so I’m taking an in-depth look at what it takes to make this festival an incredible experience. I am really looking forward to the repertoire this year, the students will be performing some of my favorite chamber pieces. I really can’t wait for check-in day because we will finally get to meet the students! I’m excited to see the faculty again and even more excited to meet our new faculty. I’m also thrilled to have Saraina join our KBMF staff family! I know she’s gonna be so incredible and I really hope I can set a great example for her.
What do you envision for the future after you graduate?
AD: I would like to go to graduate school for clarinet performance and arts administration. My long-term goal is to work for an orchestra or a festival such as KBMF and perform on the side. I definitely see myself volunteering for KBMF in any way that I can because being a part of this festival is so special.
Any advice for future or current music students?
AD: Be honest with yourself about what you want and go with your gut! Always listen to advice from peers and mentors but don’t do things you don’t want to do. No matter what your major is, build the best relationship with your instrument that you can since being a good musician will advance you further into your career no matter what it is. Take care of your physical and mental health. Build friendships to last a lifetime!
Most importantly, COME TO KBMF PERFORMANCES, THEY ARE FREE FOR STUDENTS!