Last week in the Voice, we told you the story of Kalyn Heffernan, a disabled, queer rapper from Colorado and her shambling jazz-hop trio’s October trip to New York City. Heffernan still lives in Denver, but the 24-year-old contemplated relocating to New York City a couple years ago. Having studied studio engineering at the University of Colorado Denver (a/k/a Music Entertainment Industry Studies with a Tech Focus), she applied for an unpaid studio-recording internships in New York City and New Jersey around the turn of 2010.
After receiving her resume, one Manhattan studio who works with big clients called her immediately, Kalyn remembers, and said “how great my resume and cover letter was (which had my picture on it).” There was one stipulation, she recalls: “They’d like me there in two weeks.” She was sitting on a recording console in the accompanying photo, not in a wheelchair, but her band’s name, Wheelchair Sports Camp, was on the application.
Thrilled at the prospect, she wrote back as soon as she could. “I made the decision, like, ‘Okay, I’m going to make this work even though it’s not going to pay, it’s probably worth the experience.'” (This is the same person who would’ve camped at Occupy Wall Street in lieu of finding an actual bed–just to play CMJ–so it’s easy to believe she’d find a way to accommodate.) But when the studio manager realized that Kalyn was in a wheelchair, he reneged the opportunity, didn’t offer a compromise, and responded dumbly, “Sucks about the wheelchair.”
Here’s their email dialogue. The manager name has been redacted–we’ve confirmed that he no longer works there.
On Jan 9, 2010, at 11:30 PM, Kalyn Heffernan wrote:
I just looked at the floor plan on the website and it looks like you guys do have an elevator. If this is the case I can be out there by Jan 22nd.
Enjoy the weekend,
He writes back:
Mon, Jan 11, 2010 at 8:57 AM, TKTKT wrote:
That sucks about the wheelchair. It would never work in our space. There’s no bathroom access for a wheelchair and you wouldn’t be able to get through the doors and up the step of three of our studios.
There is also lot’s [sic] of physical labor, heavy lifting, cleaning, scrubbing bathrooms (which you couldn’t get into) receiving UPS deliveries of studio supplies, climbing up into the loft, moving the Hammond B-3 in & out of the closet, etc. You wouldn’t even be able to reach mics in the equipment closet.
I wanted to just be blunt with you and not be “delicate” as I’m sure you get sick to death of people treating you like you’re a child. It just wouldn’t work in our space but I encourage you to look into some other NYC studios if New York is where you want to be.
Sorry to disappoint.
Kalyn was understandably discouraged. “I’m used to being in places that aren’t accessible and I make it work,” she says. “I was like, ‘Well, good thing I didn’t just move out to New York for this,'” she says. “Pretty much after that, I stopped looking.”
Currently, the studio’s internship program job requirements lists physical tasks like “Cleaning the studio and keeping it clean” and “setting up recording gear and instruments,” but also requires tasks like “Backing up and restoring session data to tape” and “Burning and labeling client data and audio CDs/DVDs.”
The studio’s since changed locations. We reached one of the studio’s co-owners for comment. “I’m not familiar with the candidate you refer to, or the circumstances surrounding her application for an internship,” he writes. “But I can tell you that [our studio] does not discriminate on any basis in the hiring of employees or engagement of interns.”
Sucks about the wheelchair.