Conservatory Hires Jessen to Aid in Career Development


Courtesy of Philip Fortin

Bassoonist Dana Jessen recently assumed the role of director of professional development at the Conservatory. She plans on helping students build résumés, create websites and network with alumni to get a head start on their musical careers.

Colin Roshak

Ready and willing to help prepare Conservatory students for their professional careers, bassoonist Dana Jessen assumed the position of director of professional development at the Conservatory on Oct. 1.

Jessen views her job as a resource for students looking to begin to cultivate their professional image. “The Office of Professional Development at the Conservatory exists to support students through advising, through classes and through talks from outside artists or professionals in the music field. … Basically, how to take an active approach to their career development,” she said.

She also explained that although Conservatory students may have a strong work ethic, in the world of professional music, there’s much more involved in being successful than just spending time in the practice room. Jessen says she will encourage students to take the approach they have with their instrument or voice and apply it to their career development. Jessen agreed that these days, winning a job in a major symphony or signing on with the Metropolitan Opera isn’t just about how well someone performs. It is also about how well an individual has networked, publicized and promoted themself. Jessen hopes to help students improve in these areas and to develop a better understanding of “how the music world works.”

Jessen grew up in Michigan and studied bassoon performance at the New England Conservatory before going on to study contemporary music in Amsterdam through a Fulbright Fellowship. “The Conservatory students have different needs than the College students,” said Jessen, as she explained her plans to help students prepare for their careers in the music industry.

Although there is a focus on preparing upperclassmen for their impending graduation and the next step, Jessen said that an important aspect of successful preparation is starting early. “My whole mantra about taking an active approach to your own professional development … [is to] start as freshmen,” she said. She explained that she intends to help students find internships, develop Winter Term projects and create websites or résumés. Jessen wants to help students find a job in the music world and also to be artistically satisfied in everything that they do.

Before starting her work at Oberlin, Jessen became familiar with the Oberlin alumni network. “I run into more Oberlin alumni than anyone else,” she said. Jessen said she hopes to tap into that resource to help students network with Oberlin graduates who have already established themselves in the music world. “The Oberlin community is massive, and the more you can reach out to people, the better,” Jessen said.

Placed in the path from the Conservatory lockers to the practice rooms in Robertson, Jessen’s office is hard to miss; she hopes that more students will take

advantage of the resources available to them. According to Jessen, the first fulltime director since 2012, the Office of Professional Development has been in a state of transition for the past three years. The OPD was once a department within the Career Center, meaning the office was located further from the Conservatory and more was difficult for Conservatory students to access. In 2012, the director of the OPD moved the office to its current location in Bibbins Hall to make the resources more accessible to students.

Only a week into her new job, Jessen has high hopes and aspirations. She plans on collaborating with other offices like the Career Center and the Alumni Office to provide Conservatory students with additional opportunities to ensure their success as professionals. She also seeks to provide classes and lectures specifically focused on professional development. Above all, Jessen said that she wants to make sure that students know that the Office of Professional Development is up and running and ready to help. “I’m trying to get people into the office from day one,” she said.