Humans of Pacific Symphony: Meet AmeriCorps VIP Fellow Jewel Helligar
“The orchestra can’t just pop up on stage. A lot of people don’t really know all the other planning and work that goes on. Working behind the scenes in arts administration is really eye-opening.”
When you attend a Pacific Symphony concert, you can be sure to expect a top-tier, professional, and enjoyable performance by its many talented musicians. However, what a lot of audience members may not be thinking about while they are awed in the concert hall is the extensive network of staff, volunteers, and interns working behind the scenes to make each Symphony performance as engaging and memorable as the last. No one would know this complicated beast of arts administration better than Jewel Helligar, the Symphony’s resident AmeriCorps VIP Fellow stationed in Volunteer Services.
Helligar is a cellist and music student at CSU Long Beach. She chose to dedicate service time with the Symphony to gain professional experience and give back to her local arts community. An AmeriCorps Fellowship places individuals like Helligar in a stipend service for a non-profit. As a VIP Fellow, she is trained to support and recruit volunteers for her organization. Though she has only been with Pacific Symphony for less than a year, her work has made a big impact and has not gone unnoticed. For this reason, the Symphony highlights Helligar for the month of May for her outstanding contributions to Volunteer Services.
Helligar’s primary role at the Symphony is handling the majority of the recruitment of volunteers. Her biggest accomplishment to date is recruiting over 120 volunteers during the Symphony’s Lantern Festival this year. There were so many inquiries about volunteering that she actually had to turn people away!
Unsurprisingly, Helligar has always been the type to catch on to things quickly and excel, not just with her work at the Symphony. For example, Helligar has progressed at an impressive speed for a music student. She had just started playing the cello in high school, which is amazing considering the competitive selection processes for college music programs.
“I’m really proud of myself for all the progress I’ve made in just a few short years. I only just took the cello seriously at 16.”
Her decision to take on the cello stems from a classic sibling squabble. From the early age of nine, Helligar knew she wanted to play a string instrument after hearing a violin solo during worship at her church.
“I really wanted to play violin since then, but my sister had already claimed that instrument before I could start. And you know how siblings are. You can’t copy each other or do the same thing. So I chose to play the cello. I never even heard of it until my dad mentioned it to me. I took it on pretty well.”
“Pretty well” is an understatement of her commitment to the instrument as it led her to CSU Long Beach’s music program. Since attending, Helligar has really connected with the campus and teachers. She enjoys studying there thus far and has built strong friendships with her fellow peers.
Currently, she continues to practice cello intently and finds inspiration in the recordings of the famous cellist Jacqueline du Pré. Helliger laments that du Pré’s career was cut short when she was diagnosed sadly with multiple sclerosis.
“Everything she plays sounds beautiful. She’s pretty much the blueprint for me. She’s able to get a very powerful sound without trying too hard. It’s something that I want to work on. So many parts of the cello technique are tied to the ways you move your body. Sometimes you need to sit back and relax and let it naturally move.”
Besides music, she also participates in her school’s E-sports team. She battles online with friends playing games like Valorant, Apex, and Splatoon 3.
Before joining Pacific Symphony, between her demanding classwork, practicing the cello, and gaming, Helligar needed to find work that was flexible with school and fell into her interests and passions. However, like most college students, Helligar first got a job in food services to keep up with expenses. She quickly realized how physically and mentally draining those jobs could be and how difficult they worked with her schedule.
When the AmeriCorps Fellowship opportunity at Pacific Symphony became known to her, it instantly piqued her interest. A music-related job that would help cover expenses and work with her school schedule was the dream for her. Upon acceptance, she began thriving in her role immediately. There was also a multitude of benefits she gained access to.
As a Fellow, Helligar is eligible for an education grant at the end of the year, which will significantly help with tuition. This has allowed her to relax a bit more and take a breather. Her Fellowship with the Symphony not only provides tuition aid, but also has given her countless professional and life skills that she can take with her in a future career. Naturally a bit reserved, Helligar believes her time as a Fellow has pushed her outside of her comfort zone and helped her improve her communication and networking skills. Those will both be essential upon graduating college. It has also given her a chance to see a different side of performance from the administrative side.
“The orchestra can’t just pop up on stage. Working behind the scenes in arts administration is really eye-opening for a musician. A lot of people don’t really know all the other planning and work that goes on.”
After graduating CSU Long Beach, Helligar hopes to double major in performance and musicology in grad school and receive her artist diploma. A long-term goal of hers is to try for her doctorate in either performance or musicology eventually.
All in all, Pacific Symphony thanks Jewel Helligar for her service. Her Fellowship has enriched her professional skills, which she will continue using in her future endeavors.
For more information about volunteer or internship opportunities, click here.
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Guest blogger Samantha Soriano Horrocks is freelance writer and content creator with a passion for communications and the entertainment industry. She graduated from California State University, Fullerton with a degree in Communications, specializing in Entertainment and Tourism. Her extensive knowledge and experience in these fields have allowed her to develop a unique perspective that she shares through her writing.