From London to Cape Town, senior says ‘music is the global language’

Photo courtesy of Jonathan Zhang

For his final co-op at Northeastern, senior Jonathan Zhang flew halfway around the world to South Africa, where he spent six months working at the Cape Town Opera.

Throughout this global experiential learning opportunity, Zhang saw his work responsibilities and professional opportunities expand as he assisted on a variety of productions. Here, Zhang—a music major concentrating in music industry—shared what he gained most from his Cape Town co-op and how it has fit in with his robust range of global experiences at Northeastern.

A job, and a quick promotion

Zhang’s co-op spanned from July to December 2016. He began as a production assistant, but was soon promoted to assistant to the artistic director. His work included a variety of duties across three in-house productions and three international tours. He helped book and audition artists, ensured the costume department’s needs were met, organized rehearsal schedules, helped record some of the music featured in the shows, and created and distributed promotional materials, among other responsibilities.

It was really cool having the opportunity to see the creation of a musical piece from the ground up. I gained some really great insight into the industry.

Jonathan Zhang

But Zhang said his biggest thrill, and proudest achievement, was working on a new musical theatre piece set to premiere this year in Cape Town as well as abroad. The Cape Town Opera is producing the piece with the Wales Millennium Centre in the U.K., and Zhang oversaw the auditions process. He liaised with numerous casting agencies and coordinated auditions for more than 200 people across South Africa and beyond.

Managing this process and working with people in different countries, along with observing how the entire show and the logistical details came together, was an eye-opening experience.

“It was really cool having the opportunity to see the creation of a musical piece from the ground up,” he said. “I gained some really great insight into the industry.”

Global citizen

Zhang’s South Africa co-op was the latest—but not the last—global experience he has pursued since arriving at Northeastern in fall 2012. First, in 2014, he studied abroad in Australia, where he took classes in international business and marketing at the University of Sydney and in creative music technology at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music. Next, he spent his first co-op in London at Kobalt Music Group, where he assisted with synchronization licensing activities such as cataloging license requests and approvals, creating promotional materials, and managing the company’s database of music.

Now he is back in London on study abroad at Goldsmiths University, where he is taking elective courses in the music and communications departments. “Because I chose to attend Northeastern, I’ve lived on four continents and spent two full years abroad before graduating college,” he said. “It’s been amazing.”

Zhang said that after graduation, he’s eager to continue working in the arts and experiencing new cultures. He said that from his global experiences at Northeastern, he’s grown professionally, learned much more about all facets of the music industry, and embraced the notion that we live in a global society.

“Going abroad has not only reinforced the idea that music is the global language, but it will help me keep in perspective that there are so many different types of music out there,” he said.