Charleston Symphony Orchestra
Charleston, South Carolina
Years in current position: 1
Years in the field: 30
B.A. Music with minor in theatre and dance
M.A. Modern Dance
On-the-job training in the dance department of George Washington University while pursuing my graduate degree.
Dance Faculty, State Universtiy of New York-Buffalo, University of South Carolina
Arts Management Faculty and Director, Medaille College
Executive Director of Arts Councils: Corning, New York; Beaufort and Greenville, South Carolina
Director of Grants, South Carolina Arts Commission
Vice President of Development, Interim President and CEO, Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra
What are the most surprising, interesting or challenging aspects of your day-to-day work?
The surprising aspect of working with orchestras is how poorly managed they can be and how staff can be allowed to work in silos. Thus, I have spent my first year building a team and developing operational procedures and policies. My previous work in smaller arts service organizations provided a solid base for leadership positions in orchestra-land. Success in arts service is measured by being able to develop collaborative projects and being artist-centered rather than self-centered. Also, having worked with many boards—both good and bad—I’m very aware of the isometric exercise that’s part of the CEO and board leadership process. I’ve found that orchestras do not embrace change easily, so my mantra from my choreographer days has been that the elements of dance are space, time and force—alter one of those elements and you have a new dance. It seems to help people undertake change less reluctantly.
What inspired you to work for an orchestra?
It was a strategic decision to get out of arts service and take that knowledge and expertise to a primary arts provider. When I was made President and CEO of the RPO for seven months, while still handling the VP of Development position, I realized that I was most successful as a CEO. That’s why I allowed myself to be recruited for the CSO job.
What were you first steps toward an orchestra career?
After working with arts management interns, I am convinced that one must first have a degree in an art form and then learn the business and management side through on-the- job training and graduate work. Although my M.A. is in dance, I worked at GWU for five years as the secretary of the department (free tuition) and handled all budgets, summer workshop planning, scheduling, etc. —in addition to all of the artistic and performing parts of the degree program. It was an excellent beginning that I would recommend to others.
What advice would you offer to someone considering the orchestra field?
Be a participating artist in at least one art form. You don’t have to be Twyla Tharp, but at least know what it’s like to be a choreographer and company founder. Then, learn about the other art forms and go to performances, exhibitions, etc. Be an arts consumer all of your life and be an arts education advocate.
Any other advice?
It’s funny to me that orchestra people seem to be so focused on the music they are producing that they don’t know about or seem to appreciate other art forms. I think this limits the field. People need to be encouraged to think strategically about the impact of their products, delivery systems, and operational barriers. I’d recommend reading Learning Audiences: Adults Arts Participation by Nello McDaniel. Also, books such as Jim Collin’s Good to Great and Monograph for Social Sector; Tipping Point, Whack on the Side of the Head are always good to help alter one’s perspective on programming.