This internship report was written by music major Gloria Cosenza, Special Collections & Archives intern
Gloria Cosenza with photos of Norman Treigle (directly behind Gloria) and her grandfather Arthur Cosenza (right) at Pascal's Manale, 2015. Image courtesy of Gloria Cosenza.
Music is so naturally united with us that we cannot be free from it even if we so desired.
Boethius (AD 480 – AD 524) is a philosopher best known for his treatise, Consolation of Philosophyand the most notable of his ideas is The Wheel of Fortune. However, he is most important to me because of the philosophy within his manuscript De institutione musica. Boethius identified what he considered “the threefold classification of music”. Musica mundana is the music of the spheres (planets and universes), which is soundless to the naked ear but can be felt more or less like goose bumps or butterflies in your stomach. Musica humana is the harmony sounded in between the physical and spiritual human body – the vibration and sound of OM in yoga is an example of this harmony. Musica instrumentalis is understood on the most basic level as instrumental music produced by something under tension (i.e. strings, wind, water, or percussion). The quote above is taken from this ancient manuscript.
I recognize music as a driving force in my life – as one I have run from and now a force with which I attempt to coexist. Music is the reason I decided to finish my undergraduate degree at Loyola, and my Cosenza family legacy with the university begins (and will soon end) with the art of opera. Arthur Cosenza, my operatic baritone of a grandfather, spearheaded the Loyola Opera Workshop in 1964. His instructor status at the university allowed for his sons (my dad and uncle) to earn – free of charge – not only their undergraduate degrees in English and Accounting, but also their law degrees. It was in the law classrooms of the Broadway campus where my parents met and fell in love. One of the reasons they fell in love was because of their shared passion for the arts.
[My mother recalls reading in Time magazine of Arthur’s work (before she ever met my father) with the New Orleans Opera Association during their 1972 opera season. The infamous season when soprano Carol Neblett, performing the role of Thais, revealed her nude self to an unsuspecting crowd in the Act I finale of the opera!]
Arthur Cosenza (standing, right) rehearsing with Loyola Opera Workshop singers Carl Kauffman (left) and Judith Fischer (middle), and accompanist Eugenie Passera. Image from the Loyola University Archives.
I am the third of four children my parents have together. My oldest sister graduated summa cum laude with degrees from Loyola in Mass Communications and political science. Since I am not married, and my youngest sister is graduating from LSU, I will be the last Cosenza with a degree, as a “Cosenza”, from Loyola.
The operatic sound is one of the many frequencies, which makes up my own musical chemistry. We listened to operatic recordings on vinyl; my grandfather would occasionally sing; and eventually, I saw my very first live performance when I was about nine years old. I experienced the opera at the Mahalia Jackson Theater of the Performing Arts with my grandfather while he was still the Artistic Director of the New Orleans Opera Association. The production was The Ballad of Baby Doe, and I ate too many chocolate covered raisins. Truthfully, my first heartfelt operatic experience was many years after my first opera, but several months after my grandfather passed away. Up late studying for a high school geography exam and strung out on caffeine, I was playing music I found on an old computer. Puccini’s “O Mio Babino Caro” sung by Maria Callas started to play, and I cried. I played it a few more times in order to witness myself emoting through a classical piece of music. I was sure the aria’s text was of overcoming hopelessness and sadness, but alas it is not. Though sometimes I still cry when I hear that recording, in spite of the text – just because it makes me think of Arthur.
Arthur Cosenza. Image from the New Orleans Opera Association Archives.
“If they don’t let me in, I won’t go anywhere else.” That’s what I told my parents when I decided to audition for Loyola’s School of Music. I was a twenty-three year old yoga teacher/nanny/full time employee at Whole Foods Market in Baton Rouge, “with a dream”. The Loyola voice faculty made a strange decision, and they accepted me into their program. I have been studying classical voice and the art of operatic performance for over three years now. This summer I was given the opportunity to study the business of opera, and specifically the business my grandfather ran for almost 20 years at the New Orleans Opera Association. During my internship, I worked as an associate of the Special Collections and Archives department on the third floor of Monroe Library. My project for the summer was to layout a timeline based on the history of the New Orleans Opera Association (NOOA) in correlation to the one hundred boxes which make up the NOOA collection. On the first day, I was briefed on basic rules and practices of keeping and working in archives. I learned the layout of each collection and what kinds of information these collections had to offer in way of research aids.
Learning the basics of managing and maneuvering an archive seems to me a legitimate library science skill that I could use to persuade employers looking to hire someone for a basic library position or any position that would require book keeping or basic organization/ attention to detail qualities. I eventually created a digital timeline using software called TimelineJS.
Click image above to go to timeline
Granted the software was very easy to use, it will be a great tool for future presentations and possibly an element to a kind of portfolio I might put together to impress employers. The last, important skill I learned while working as an intern this summer was how to work with new personalities. I pride myself in having known and worked with many different kinds of people, and this summer I met a couple of new attitudes I was otherwise not familiar. I regretfully admit that I am a people pleaser, first and foremost; but I feel like I made headway into reasons why being a stand up, reliable worker is the most important and usually the easiest way to gain anyone’s affection or approval. I don’t need to be “nice” or “cute” in order to be an asset to the team. What a team wants more than anything – for the sake of the individuals and the project at hand – is a clever, focused, confident worker. All of my colleagues have offered themselves as references for future job opportunities I may have. These women are eager to see me succeed in whatever I do, and they are some of the smartest, empowered, good-humored women I have met. I believe we will stay friends for quite some time.
The first day of my internship was May 23, and though I stopped working twenty hours a week on August 1. I am still working with the team, though they could only take me on at ten hours a week instead of twenty to meet their budget. On August 23, I will have been with SC&A for three months. I am not sure I can articulate all of the amazing new ideas I’ve had in such a short time. These new ideas range from how the past can shed light on a successful future for the opera as a thriving art form in New Orleans, to the necessary facets of my own projects as an up and coming artist in the world – and how I can make a thriving career for myself as a performing artist. I kept a notebook while working in the archives. This notebook is full of lists of things to do for the exhibits and places where I can find what I need, etc. However, in and throughout my notes, I have scribbles of marketing ideas for myself – equipment I need to purchase, ideas for a kind of press package, thoughts on head shots, possible day jobs for when I graduate, lists of repertoire I need to learn, quotes and special places of beautiful photos of my grandpop. One of the most amazing parts of this New Orleans Opera Association project was reading about how all of these famous musicians made it to the top. I picked up on a few key points that have kept me thinking forward into my own future. The first is passion for the music and for the art of performance – a passionate dedication to beauty, precision, and honesty when making opera. Second, there is a teacher who believes in the student or artist. It seems strange that dependence does in fact exist especially in a world where individualism is strong and we believe that the individual can do whatever he or she puts their minds to… But the truth is, with an art such as voice, a quality teacher is a necessary for the progress of the vocalist – a teacher who believes in the student’s possible career and a teacher who can articulate breathing technique, freedom of muscles, sound and creative expression. The third quality is diligence. I think diligence encompasses perseverance at a steady pace, thorough and quality preparation, and a promise to live up to his or her vocal talent. By this I mean, never taking for granted the natural vocal gift that exists, taking good care of it and looking forward to expressing it.
Gloria working in the archives, summer 2016. Image courtesy of Gloria Cosenza.
One of my music business advisers strongly recommended I register for the internship course within the music industry curriculum. He has always told me that if I am going to try for an operatic performance career that I will need some kind of a back up plan in order to supplement my income. This summer I learned that though my grandfather had a unique vocal talent and stage presence, he was also an incredible businessman. Because he was a performer, he was able to communicate with many different kinds of people and those people wanted to be around him. All summer I read of how he had never imagined he would spend fifty years of his life stage directing and managing a professional opera house. He loved opera and everything else happened from that passion. Where my own career is concerned, I believe I have a significant chance of making a living as a singing actor. If this is not the case, I will remain content as long as I am surrounded by music and according to Boethius I always will be.