Performing arts, music alumni share wisdom with Elon in Los Angeles program

Two alumni panels provided industry insights, experiences and connections for Elon undergraduates in the Elon in Los Angeles program this summer

Eleven alumni from Elon’s performing arts and music programs met with students participating in summer courses and internships through Elon in Los Angeles, offering advice for planning careers in entertainment.

The two alumni wisdom sessions were hosted at Second Home Hollywood, a co-working space and the academic hub for the Isabella Cannon Global Education Center’s Study USA program in Los Angeles.

Performing Arts alumni included:

  • Tristan Bailey ’11, actor, writer and executive assistant at Comcast
  • Julia Gallagher ‘12, actor, producer and writer
  • Kalie-Ann Nassoura ’21, dancer, actor, model and communications professional
  • Alyssa Needham ’19, dancer, choreographer, and pilates instructor
  • Maurice Whitfield ’07, actor (SAG-AFTRA)
7 people seated in a row inside a bright, yellow room at Second Home Hollywood
From left, Jordan Roman, Chris Tarpley, Meredith Burns, Emily Hubbard, Lauren Fisher, Sean Renner and Benjamin Soldate discuss their music careers with students in the Elon in Los Angeles program.

Music alumni included:

  • Lauren Fisher ’19, brand partnership coordinator at Select Management Group
  • Emily Hubbard ’18, associate dialogue editor at Disney Publishing
  • Steph Militello ’12, music clearance administrator at Paramount Global
  • Sean Renner ’06, composer, recording and performing artist
  • Benjamin Soldate ’13, audio engineer
  • Chris Tarpley ’17 and L’19, attorney at Kjar, McKenna & Stockalper

Butler alumna Meredith Burns, who works in project management and music marketing, joined the music alumni panel. That session was moderated by Jordan Roman ’15, who majored in cinema at Elon.

“All of the wonderful music alumni from Elon and Butler University shared such useful, pragmatic and applicable wisdom with the students, graciously answering deeply technical questions and clarifying industry terminology. The best part was seeing all of the students interacting with alumni and connecting in a personal way after the session. This was a great way for alumni and students to connect and celebrate the greater Elon in Los Angeles community.”

The sessions were organized by Jen Guy Metcalf, associate professor of dance and interim director for the Elon in Los Angeles program, and provided an opportunity for students to connect with industry professionals for practical knowledge and to hear firsthand the challenges and opportunities around forging a career in the entertainment capital of the world. Timely information around the actors’ and writers’ unions strikes and their impacts also featured in discussions.

“Our alumni shared information for our students to be successful as interns, in academics, and as a professional after graduation,” Guy Metcalf said. “They provided information about how they navigate their professional careers, maintain mental health and well-being, how to approach and understand contracts, and they commented on the SAG-AFTRA and WGA strikes.”

four people seated in front of large windows at Second Home Hollywood
From left, Lauren Fisher, Sean Renner, Benjamin Soldate and Steph Militello share advice in a panel for Elon in Los Angeles students.

Students said the advice helped clarify their career goals along with better understanding of the skills and characteristics that lead to success in music, film and performance.

“Alumni emphasized the importance of staying connected to the people we met in LA, especially through our internships. The industry is all about connections, and the people we met in LA are helping me advance my network and also my skill set in the industry,” said Katie Kapp ’24, an acting major and psychology minor. “They also encouraged me to be bold and go after the things that I want.”

Alyssa Needham ’19 remembers well the feelings of uncertainty that come with establishing oneself after graduation and wanted to assure current students that they can be successful and happy.

“It felt like just yesterday I was sitting in the students’ shoes, interning in Los Angeles excited about what the future holds. It was nice to reflect on my transition from Elon to post-grad life, and share the successes, learning moments, and struggles of the entertainment industry and life in Los Angeles. I hope that the students feel more confident that they can thrive in life after Elon and know that they have a community here in Los Angeles if they choose.”

Sean Renner ’06 — who after Elon earned a Master of Fine Arts in Music Composition and Performance from the California Institute of the Arts — was excited to participate in the panels, understanding that music students and graduates are navigating the same challenges he did.

“The wisdom session felt like a true full-circle moment,” Renner said. “I love sharing the experiences I’ve had and perspectives I’ve developed over the years, because I know how valuable it can be to graduates just starting down a career path. There’s very little in the way of tried-and-true paths to career success. Sharing the things that have been most helpful for me in navigating my career — and being able to share advice that I know would have helped me at that early stage of my career — brings me a lot of joy.”

Guy Metcalf said the alumni panels are a hallmark of the Elon in Los Angeles program because of the connections they forge and the value to students of hearing from alumni and young alumni in established and growing careers.

“The Elon alumni in Los Angeles are extremely supportive of our students and want them to succeed,” she said. “It’s an excellent opportunity for current students to connect with Elon alumni and hear advice about a variety of topics. Alumni answered students’ questions and offered to stay connected. It was an honor to organize this important session with my colleagues and alumni because it has been an essential component of the Elon in Los Angeles program for over a decade.”