November 15, 2022

A new generation of performing arts leaders

Whether on stage, behind the curtain, or at a desk, Lyric Opera of Chicago's interns help make the music happen. A wide range of internships are offered within the administrative office throughout the year for students and career changers who wish to gain experience in arts administration. Lyric employs a year-round administrative staff of approximately 120, who are ready to guide and support our interns in various disciplines including education, fundraising, marketing, theatre technology, and more.

Read on to see just a few examples of individuals who made the inspiring move from Lyric intern to arts leader.

Emma Scherer
Santa Fe Symphony Orchestra & Chorus, Executive Director

"It was amazing to train under Dan Novak and see how the world-renowned Ryan Opera Center operated. It gave me a sense of just how much work goes into arts administration and the kind of dedication it takes for a young singer to make it to the professional world. I remember it being filled with lots of hard work and laughter – the best part about working in the arts no matter where you are. After my internship, I finished my music business degree and then went to work at Santa Fe Opera in New Mexico. I had an amazing arts admin education in Santa Fe where I gained a sense of every area of the company and I brought that into my Manager role at Ryan Opera Center upon my return to Lyric. I now work as the Executive Director of The Santa Fe Symphony Orchestra & Chorus where I get to work with a fantastic orchestra and chorus, and our Principal Conductor and Choral Director."

Emma enjoying the fruits of her labor at the 2018 Opening Night Opera Ball.

Meaghan Smallwood
Chicago Opera Theater, Director of Development

"My internship at Lyric exposed me to large-scale fundraising events and the importance of keeping donors engaged in the work of the organization, skills that serve me today in my career. I helped on projects like merchandise ordering and inventory, volunteer assignments, and preparation for our silent auction, in addition to clerical tasks. I was also included in department meetings so I could get a sense of what others were doing. There is always work to be done at a place as large as Lyric! If my area was having a slow day (although that is rare!), I'd ask my supervisor to offer my assistance to other departments, even if it was just photocopying or filing. I spent the next ten years working in the development department at Lyric, ultimately becoming a major gifts fundraiser. Everything I learned at Lyric prepared me for my job as the Director of Development at Chicago Opera Theater."

Meaghan hugging a Lyric Donor in the foyer. 

Ben Bell Bern
Lyric Opera of Chicago, Director of Company Management

"Aspiring theatre admin folks should apply for an internship at Lyric because it's a massive operation at which a young person can be exposed to many different types of work being done by really talented people. I was mostly doing generic clerical tasks as an intern, but because I was working with and around the artists, I was given a unique insight into the lives and minds of aspiring young opera singers. I was attracted to Lyric's size and stature in the city and field, and I was particularly keen to do something closely connected to the making of the art. Personal and professional growth has come from working with really talented colleagues and being allowed to take on more and more responsibilities over the years."

Ben in front of the call sheet and stage schedule in the hallway outside of the theatre. 

Many other former interns have moved on to full-time careers at Lyric, including our current Website Content Manager, Systems Administrator, and the Vice President and Director of the Ryan Opera Center. In addition to Santa Fe Symphony and Chicago Opera Theater, Lyric interns have found success at acclaimed organizations like ChiArts Foundation, Harris Theater, Stanford University, and Viral Nation.

Lyric is proud to have launched a paid internship program that started in Summer 2022. We extend special thanks to The Elizabeth Morse Genius Charitable Trust, providing generous support for this new initiative. Lyric's internship program is an investment in creating robust training opportunities for a new generation of performing arts leaders. Through the educational opportunities and mentorship relationships of these training programs, a new generation of performing arts leaders can forge their own path while securing Lyric’s future.

To learn more about our internship program or to apply, visit

Photos: Jacklyn Simpson, Kyle Flubacker, Andrew Cioffi/Lyric Opera of Chicago