Diversity Leadership Mentorship Program

What is the program?

The Diversity Leadership Mentorship Program is a new initiative by UIA Talent Agency to empower young professionals to make progress towards becoming leaders in our industry.  This program provides a full-time paid mentorship in Artist Representation with the goal to strive for building a more diverse and inclusive environment at our agency, and helping to facilitate the adoption of this type of program in other organizations throughout the industry.

What are the program’s goals?

  • Drive systemic change throughout the entertainment industry by diversifying industry leadership.
  • Increase the opportunities available to diverse young professionals who have an interest in a career in arts leadership by placing them in positions at partnering or allied organizations.
  • Develop strategic partnerships with educational institutions (including universities, conservatories, and HBCU’s), service companies, producing companies, and other industry leaders to help facilitate this type of program within their own organizations.
  • Identify and secure funding to subsidise costs for low-income participants.
  • Secure funding and grants to help offset the costs borne by educational institutions in bringing in leaders in the industry to provide Masterclasses and Mentorship opportunities as well as for producing organizations to hold auditions in communities not previously reached.

What makes this program unique?

Most often the opportunities provided to students or recent college graduates are in the form of unpaid internships at companies and unpaid full-time positions as performing artists at companies that mainly focus on community outreach. In addition, due to the recent pandemic, we are currently offering a digital apprenticeship which will allow for a greater pool of applicants as they can be from anywhere in the country, provided they have access to the internet.  The program also brings together educational institutions, non-profit, and commercial partners, therefore providing access to a wider range of potential future careers.

How does the program work?

UIA Talent Agency’s Diversity Leadership Mentorship Program is a semester long full-time, paid opportunity. Mentees will be paired with a leadership mentor, and start in a rigorous training program where they will learn the key functions and responsibilities of the role, identify the core skills required to perform the job, and identify the mentee’s personal strengths and how to apply them to their work in the industry. They will interact one-on-one with each member of the staff to learn more about their unique skill set, how they developed the skills to do their job, and what their day-to-day duties and responsibilities are.  They will be encouraged to shadow conversations between the team and their clients, and to participate in the projects that most interest them.  Ideally, once the current pandemic is over, they will attend performances, meetings, and travel to see artists perform or to meet with outside organizations. By the end of the program, they will have gained the skills and confidence needed for a career in this field, have developed a network of key individuals in the industry, and will have first-hand exposure to a wide array of industry functions including: artist representation, artistic administration, casting, producing, and many creative roles.

In the initial phases of the program, we would seek to partner with educational institutions with credit-bearing internship programs. Because of the financial investment required, and the legal liabilities assumed from hiring, we will focus on credit-bearing programs until there is enough structure and grant support to step outside of the academic system.

We are in the process of developing relationships with various organizations for fiscal sponsorship of this program to allow us to provide more opportunities. We would like to be able to find non-profit partners who can:

  1. Allow us to accept donations to this program to ensure that applicants experiencing financial hardship have the opportunity to participate. Many companies post-COVID will not have the financial ability to create these positions without some additional support, and this will also potentially allow us to consider candidates who don’t reside in New York City by making grants to underwrite living expenses available. Based on minimum wage in New York, the salary cost per position will be approximately $15/hour.
  2. To help increase the reach of our program into populations of potential applicants where we don’t have a presence or aren’t known.
  3. To allow us to tap into specific populations and begin targeted grant funds for specific groups of potential participants served by a non-profit partner. (i.e. we may have some partners who focus on the BIPOC community, and some who focus on the Latinx community). This will help us ensure our applicant pool is diverse, and we’ll rely on these partners to help us review our hiring practices to ensure institutional biases are eliminated as much as possible.


UIA Talent Agency is seeking applicants for our Diversity Leadership Mentorship Program:  a new initiative empowering young professionals from the marginalized spectrum to make progress towards becoming leaders in the entertainment industry. This program provides a one or two semester, full-time, paid mentorship at our licensed Talent Agency providing the opportunity for diverse, early-career professionals to create a well-developed network of supportive industry professionals while developing and honing the skills necessary to lay the foundation for a successful career in arts leadership.

During the program, you’ll be paired with a primary mentor based on which segment of the industry you plan to pursue. You’ll have dedicated one-on-one sessions at least once per week to discuss your role, your skills, your progress, answer any questions you may have, and lay the foundation for the relationship which will persist beyond your time in the program. Your primary mentor may connect you with other industry leaders based on your personal interests. You’ll have the opportunity to learn from each member of the UIA team about their particular roles, and how they contribute to the overall success of the Agency and the industries in which we do business. You’ll receive constructive feedback to establish your goals and measure your performance against those goals at least once per month.

We encourage any applicants who identify with a community or population which has been systemically marginalized or discriminated against to apply, including, but not limited to: BIPOC, Latinx, Asian, Indigenous Peoples, Pacific Islanders, LGBTQIA+, women, and people with disabilities. We promote true equality, enforce anti-racist practices while creating a safe space for open dialogue, and provide a workplace free from discrimination and bias.

Laquita Mitchell

Ambassador, Classical

Soprano Laquita Mitchell consistently earns acclaim on eminent international opera and concert stages worldwide. Notable engagements include appearances with the New York Philharmonic, Philadelphia Orchestra, Detroit Symphony Orchestra, Paris Opéra-Comique, Grange Park Opera UK, San Francisco Opera, Lyric Opera of Chicago, Houston Grand Opera, Los Angeles Opera, Edmonton Opera and many summer festivals to include, the Blossom Festival and The Tanglewood Festivals.

In addition to her performance career Ms. Mitchell has been an active music educator. She believes that when music is offered in the classrooms to all students, the sky is indeed the limit. Ms. Mitchell understands the importance of equity and opportunity within her community and has worked diligently with Historic Black Colleges and Universities in master classes throughout the United States. Graduating with a music education degree from Westminster Choir College of Rider University has added a unique perspective to Ms. Mitchell’s teaching and training of younger singers.

She is also a graduate of the Manhattan School of Music and an alumna of the Houston Grand Opera Studio Program as well as the San Francisco Opera Merola Program. Ms. Mitchell is an Adjunct Associate Professor of Voice at City University of New York-Brooklyn College and Voice Instructor in the Pre-College Division at the Manhattan School of Music.

For more information on Ms. Mitchell’s career please visit our website at UIA- LAQUITA MITCHELL and her personal website at LAQUITA MITCHELL

Christin Byrdsong

Ambassador, Musical Theatre

As a singer, actor, and dancer, Christin Byrdsong (he, him, his) has had the honor of performing around the world. As a queer black man, Christin is a dynamic individual that has taken those experiences in gratitude and is committed to the belief: “the world is my family”. Because of this belief, Christin is a Diversity Consultant and social activist seeking to foster equity both on and off stage.

From marching in the streets of New York to leading panel discussions with groups from industry professionals to law enforcement, he is committed to fighting for change so future generations can breathe freely.

Christin is a graduate of the Wanda L. Bass School of Music at Oklahoma City University and resides in New York City.

For more information on Mr. Byrdsong’s career please visit our website at UIA – CHRISTIN BYRDSONG and his personal website at CHRISTIN BYRDSONG

Kenneth Overton

Baritone Kenneth Overton, is an award winning performer of Opera, Oratorio and Musical theatre. Having performed in 20 countries world wide and 43 United States to date, Mr. Overton has become one of the leading singers of his generation. Kenneth has taken his powerful interpretations to San Francisco Opera, L’Opera de Montreal, The Royal danish Opera, Palacio Bellas Artes, New York City Opera, The New York Philharmonic, amongst others. Born and raised in Philadelphia, PA, Kenneth received his formal training at the North Carolina School of the Arts and The Hartt School.

As an artist advocate for performers of color, Kenneth Overton co-founded Opera Noire of New York and is its Artistic Director. As an avid recitalist, Kenneth is a champion of the Negro Spiritual and performing works by Africa-American Composers. In addition to his varied performances, Kenneth gives masterclasses to University and High School students, particularly serving Historically Black Colleges and Universities. Currently Mr. Overton is serving as Associate Producer of the upcoming documentary, BLACK OPERA. More information can be found at www.BlackOperaFilm.com

For more information on Mr. Overton’s career please visit our website at UIA – KENNETH OVERTON and his personal website at KENNETH OVERTON

John Viscardi

John Viscardi has dedicated his career to a diverse but deeply connected set of objectives: using music to strengthen our understanding of the human condition, empowering individuals to harness their creativity in the pursuit of success, and championing the arts as our most powerful tool for self-expression.

As an opera singer, John has performed on some of the world’s greatest stages and is highly sought after for the power of his dramatic interpretation. As Co-founder and Co-Executive Director of ArtSmart, John has led the creation of the nation’s largest musical mentoring organization. John is a graduate of New York University and the Academy of Vocal Arts. He lives in Philadelphia with his wife Molly and their children, Jack and Noa.

For more information on Mr. Viscardi’s career please visit our website at UIA – JOHN VISCARDI and his personal website at JOHN VISCARDI

What is a Mentee?

A Mentee is a person who proactively seeks guidance and advice from an experienced person in order to develop abilities, cultivate effective behaviors and drive their professional growth. In the DLMP, Mentees will enjoy a combination of one-on-one mentorship from the program’s Mentors, group learning with company staff and other mentees, as well as hands-on experience in a support role within the company.

What is a Mentor?

Mentors are experienced professionals who give their time and advice to mentees. In the DLMP at UIA, Mentors are Vanessa Uzan and Aaron Sanko. Each of the DLMP Mentors offers a unique perspective on a career in Arts Leadership, and is committed to the personal and professional development of their mentees.

Format of DLMProgram

  • Upon acceptance, virtual meeting with the Committee to identify Mentor and discuss setting SMART goals.
  • Virtual meeting with Mentor and UIA Talent Agency team to define responsibilities, and report the SMART goals established above.
  • Set schedule, agreed by both Mentor and Mentee, to meet weekly via video conference (or in person as soon as it is safe to do so)
  • Monthly meeting to review/update SMART goals, discuss progress, celebrate successes, and set expectations for change.
  • Final feedback upon completion of the program based on a 360 Performance Review.
  • Establish expectations and protocol for ongoing Mentee and Mentor communication after the program is completed.

Your Commitments

As a Mentee, you are responsible for:

  • Scheduling meetings with you mentor
  • Driving the conversation: preparing in advance topics you want to discuss
  • Seeking and responding positively to your mentor’s feedback
  • Making the relationship a two-way street
  • Exploring issues
  • Respecting confidentiality

Tips for Success

  • Mentors set time aside for your development and growth. Use the mentor’s time wisely; come fully prepared and on time.
  • Be open minded to new ideas; think outside the box.
  • Listen to your mentor’s point of view when receiving feedback. If you disagree with your Mentor’s perspective, explain why in the moment, and work to leave the conversation on the same page.
  • Provide your mentor with frequent, honest feedback about the nature and quality of the training and help you’re receiving. .
  • Trust is critical in a healthy mentoring relationship; matters discussed must remain confidential.
  • In order to structure the relationship, it is important to define:
    • Mode and frequency of communications.
    • If the mentor would like to know the issues to be discussed in advance of your meetings.
    • How you and the mentor like to receive feedback.
    • Your personal learning styles and modalities (visual, aural, kinesthetic, cognitive, etc.).
  • How to raise concerns about the relationship.
  • How to set goals, and use them to measure success.

First Meeting Prep Questions

  • What are my professional development goals?
  • What topics would I like to discuss with my mentor?
  • What skills would I like to improve and work on with my mentor?
  • What key information should I provide to, and what do I need from my mentor?