Each summer we invite students and recent graduates from across the globe to Milwaukee for a unique, behind-the-scenes look at how we run the world's largest Irish festival.
The Festival Experience program began in 2009. Its purpose is to provide a professional opportunity for young adults who have an interest in areas of event planning, as well as to build on the relationship between Milwaukee Irish Fest and Ireland. Interns are introduced to all levels of our festival and are able to observe and participate in many areas.
This summer, four young adults are joining us for the 35th anniversary of Milwaukee Irish Fest, including Matthew Bradley from Magherafelt, County Derry, Stephanie Finanders from Halifax, Nova Scotia, James Nolan from Drogheda, County Louth and Isabel McLaughlin from Galway.
County Derry native Matthew Bradley is a recent graduate of Queens University Belfast, where he studied film. Matthew aims to continue pursuing his passion in the media industry, motivated by his love of television, film, music and radio. True to our festival's spirit, Matthew's main interest is in music. "I spend most of my time either playing or listening to music, Irish music being a segment of that," he says. "I love discovering new music and listening to many different genres."
Matthew learned about our Festival Experience program from a family member. "I immediately applied," he said, "as I loved the idea of traveling to America and being on the working side of a festival for a change." What he learns in Milwaukee this summer will be especially valuable when applying for music-related jobs in the coming months. He's looking forward to not only the learning aspect, but also getting to know the volunteers and staff who keep our festival growing year after year, and of course sampling a few of Milwaukee's local beverages!
Stephanie Finanders recently graduated from the Music Business program at Nova Scotia Community College near her hometown of Halifax. Currently involved in a mentorship program with Halifax Pop Explosion music festival, Stephanie is especially interested in music festivals and is building a career in the live music industry.
Milwaukee Irish Fest's connections with Nova Scotia run deep. In 2013, our festival featured a Nova Scotia showcase with artists from the area in partnership with Music Nova Scotia. It was their Executive Director who informed Stephanie about our Festival Experience program, and she was eager to apply. "I'm excited to work behind the scenes at a festival this size," she says. "I'm hoping to get hands-on experience in what it takes to produce a large music festival and learn all the different pieces that go into producing a successful festival."
The second of our Ireland-natives hails from County Louth. James Nolan is a recent graduate who studied music and audio production in Dundalk, County Louth. It was his course director who introduced our Festival Experience program to James, and he was excited about the opportunity. "I have a love for all things music and strive to broaden my already eclectic taste and knowledge," he says.
With his background in music production, James is especially interested in the technical workings of the festival, from sound engineering to stage designing and orientation. What he's most excited about is "meeting new people in a new environment and making new connections in the U.S.," he says. "I'm excited to lend a hand wherever possible and help ensure the smooth running of the festival."
Isabel McLaughlin studies at the University of Limerick in County Limerick, Ireland. Her studies have sparked an interest in social media, digital marketing, digital design and event planning. Isabel is excited to see not only the planning that goes into putting on such a large event, but also how the event is marketed using social media and other outlets. "I have been really excited and interested by the whole thing," she says. "Each and every part has been different and we have been getting a taste of every aspect which I love. Now we're just looking forward to the festival itself to see how it all comes together."
We know it takes a village to run an event like Milwaukee Irish Fest, and we love inviting these interns to be a part of it. Their positive attitudes and eagerness to learn help make our festival a success year after year. Welcome to Milwaukee, and Sláinte!