An Eastman Summer Program Builds Leadership Skills and Opportunities

April 8, 2019


Melissa O’Hara is shown at the left, during a discussion at the 2018 Eastman Leadership Academy.

By Blaire Koerner

The 2018 Summer@Eastman’s session initiated the first annual Eastman Leadership Academy (ELA), developed by the Institute for Music Leadership. A 3 ½ day college-level program, the ELA was designed for upperclassmen and graduate music students specifically focused on making an impact in the community and music field. While staying here at Eastman, the 20 participants were immersed in an interactive learning experience with Eastman musicians, faculty, and leaders. Together they explored innovation in the arts, assessed current non-profit challenges, developed entrepreneurial thinking and business skills, and crafted individual, personal missions.

One such participant was Melissa O’Hara, a flutist and music education major from Wright State University. Her positive interaction at the ELA encouraged her to apply, and be accepted into, the new Masters of Arts in Music Leadership at Eastman.

In an interview with the Eastman Career Advisor, Dr. Blaire Koerner, Melissa details her story about how this program inspired a potentially new career path.

How did you hear about the Eastman Leadership Academy and why did you apply?

I heard about it from my flute professor, who went to Eastman. He received an email and forwarded it to me and said, “This would be PERFECT for you.” So, I thought I should probably have a look and followed up with the website. After looking further into Eastman Leadership Academy, my immediate thought was that the program looked really cool!

I would also like to point out that I had no clue that any of this even existed or what “leadership” really meant in this context. Up to this point I only had done marching band leadership – having done the Yahama summer symposium – but this was completely different. I didn’t realize this was a thing and thought it was perfect for me. I gave it a shot, got in and the rest is history!

What was your experience like at the ELA?

First of all, I loved being at Eastman School of Music – that was the first time I’d been there and I really liked the area. In regards to the sessions, I gained a whole bunch of ideas and skills from the content. Obviously, a lot of this was due to the faculty teaching the sessions, but I also learned from the students that were attending! There were a wide variety of participants there, some of us that were in undergraduate, those in Masters programs, and those recently out of school who were working. I learned a great deal from these colleagues because they already had experience being leaders or being a part of a non-profit. I had no clue what to expect when I first got there and I ended up learning so much from both the faculty and the students.

Was there a particular speaker, presentation, or topic that stood out to you?

A couple, but the one that immediately stands out was the Public Speaking session by Jay Stetzer. I absolutely loved it! I had to take a public speaking class before, but I’m still pretty uncomfortable with presentations. But learning it from him was really encouraging. I’m currently student teaching, my undergraduate degree is Music Education, and although it’s not “presenting” per say, I’m using all the skills he mentioned every single day.

In another class we discussed resume, CV, and cover letters, which was immediately applicable since I needed to apply to graduate school shortly after. I also used that information for personal statements for grad applications, constantly going back to my notes to see what I could add to make it stronger. In addition, I used it when writing emails – thinking about things from a professional angle…how should I write this idea? How do I format it?

Were there any leadership skills or concepts that were new to you that you were then able to apply to anything you’ve been working on?

The main concept I’ve been thinking about is the advocating side of things. I’m a flutist and for my junior recital I performed only living women composers works. At the time, I didn’t think to look for non-profits or organizations that advocate for performances like these. While I was at ELA I had an “ah-hah” moment and thought, “You know what, I bet there are organizations that are supporting this.” I ended up looking up a bunch of organizations that support and advocate for women composers. Looking ahead, internship wise, these might be some really interesting and important places that I might be able to connect or work with.


Applications for the summer 2019 Eastman Leadership Academy are open until May 1st and scholarships are available. To learn more, please go to:

For questions, please contact the ELA Coordinator, Dr. Blaire Koerner, at