Rachel Noah started her senior year at Pitt this fall fresh from her dream internship: 12 weeks in New York City with 321 Theatrical Management, the company that manages the American tour and the Broadway production of the musical “Wicked.”
“Every day I’d jump out of bed excited to go to work,” said Noah, a marketing major in Pitt’s College of Business Administration who is combining her studies with a minor in theatre arts as she aspires to a career in arts management. “I got chills getting to walk through Times Square every day. I'm in awe of where I was.”
Her work in promoting “Wicked” included attending marketing meetings, planning social media posts and accompanying the cast at events around New York City. She also helped lay the groundwork for Wicked Day, the annual celebration of the show’s Oct. 30 birthday on Broadway. This year, the show is marking its 16th year.
Noah said the experience confirmed her decision to study marketing at Pitt rather than pursue a niche degree in arts management at a smaller school.
“It was validating to hear and wonderful to know I can be in arts management without taking it as a major,” she said. “I don’t have to pigeonhole myself. My marketing degree opens more doors.”
Bringing the magic
Rachel Noah’s focus at Pitt isn’t solely on her future career. Like many Pitt students, she volunteers in the community.
Noah devotes time to The Imagination Project, a Pitt student organization whose participants visit hospitals and care facilities dressed as children’s characters.
In addition to appearing in costume as Rapunzel or “Beauty and the Beast” heroine Belle, Noah schedules and coordinates the volunteers’ visits.
“This club is very committed. It’s never a problem to get enough characters,” she said.
Noah said she has made numerous friends through her involvement and recommends the organization to any student.
“This brings me back down to earth. It’s given me a broader view of what’s important,” she said. “As a student you can get into this little bubble, worrying about your next test and whether you’ll get an A. But there’s more. Visiting these kids grounds you in what’s truly important.”
“They remember me as Belle and they get excited when I remember their names and what games we played the last time I visited. It sticks with me, and with the kids,” Noah said.Read more about these princes, princesses and superheroes in Pitt Magazine’s recent feature.
As an intern, she attended seminars led by industry professionals and met an array of composers, songwriters and performers. “I had to keep my cool when famous people walked through the door,” she admitted.
And when not working, Noah took advantage of the city’s cultural offerings: she sat in the front row of a taping of The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, saw 18 Broadway shows and checked off a sightseeing bucket list that included visits to the Statue of Liberty, a Chinatown neighborhood and Little Italy.
In addition to starry stories to tell, Noah has returned with firsthand knowledge she’ll put to use in upper-level marketing courses as she completes her degree.
“I got to learn from the best of the best in the center of the theater world,” she said.
The road to Broadway
From the time she was a little girl, Noah loved the performing arts. She began dancing when she was 3 years old and later began singing and acting. In high school in suburban Pittsburgh she performed in musicals and sang in the choir.
“Wicked” is the show that sparked her desire for a career in theater. The musical is based on a book that reimagines a youthful rivalry between Elphaba, the Wicked Witch of the West from “The Wizard of Oz,” and Galinda, who eventually becomes Glinda the Good Witch.
“I saw the show for the first time when I was eight years old,” she said. “It was so emotional and powerful. I remember crying during intermission and telling my mother that this is what I want to do for the rest of my life.”
Yet, while she has her sights on a career in theater, she said life on the road as a performer isn’t for her.
“I want more stability and a solid career that focuses on my passion for the arts,” Noah said.
When it came time to choose a college, she struggled with the decision. Should she choose a small school that offers a niche degree, or take a broader business major and tailor her educational experience to her desired career path?
She chose the latter, enrolling in Pitt’s College of Business Administration as a marketing major, adding a minor in theatre arts from Pitt’s Kenneth P. Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences, and customizing her education with a series of internships that have both expanded her knowledge and solidified her connections in the industry.
After her freshman year at Pitt, she interned with the Red Barn Theatre in suburban Pittsburgh. The following spring she worked in marketing and special events at Pittsburgh Civic Light Opera (CLO).
Noah spent the fall term of her junior year studying abroad, taking classes in international marketing and arts administration at the University of London while interning at Metta Theatre in London’s West End. There, she learned the value of making contacts in the industry. A mentor in London helped connect her with the Broadway internship opportunity.
Still, she worried whether she’d made the right decision about her studies. Would she need an arts management degree to pursue her dream?
“There’s no correct path,” she said she discovered in New York. Among the array of Broadway professionals she met, one general manager was a law school graduate; another had worked their way up through the ranks.
“If you continue to work hard you can major in anything and get to where you want to be,” she said. “I’m happy with my decision to study at Pitt. I’ve had more opportunity and more ways to learn and explore the arts management field.”
Noah’s mentors on Broadway confirmed that she arrived well-prepared.
“Rachel went above and beyond in every aspect of her time as a self-starter member of the ‘Wicked’ marketing team,” said Marissa Gonzales, one of Noah’s supervisors.
“I’m happy with my decision to study at Pitt. I’ve had more opportunity and more ways to learn and explore the arts management field.”
Rachel Noah, senior business student
“She proved to be a valuable asset with her extraordinary work ethic, time management and positive outlook — even when some tasks were less glamorous than others. We had full confidence in her throughout each task and Rachel proved herself several times over,” said Gonzales.
As she completes her degree, Noah already has built a solid resume and a network of industry connections as she looks toward launching her career.
“My major allows me to go wherever I want. Marketing is everywhere,” Noah said.
“People assume that business majors are going to be spending their days typing in a cubicle. I want to redefine that perception. I shaped my business major into what I want to pursue,” she said.