Monthly Archives: October 2017

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Careers in the Arts: Arts Administration

by Colleen Cook

Arts Administration (also called “arts management”) is a diverse field of employment in the arts, with a broad range of jobs and workplaces. An arts administrator is a business-minded leader of an arts and cultural organization/festival/institution. Degree programs in the field of Arts Administration have been available in higher education since the 1970s, and focus on elements of business administration, non-profit administration, advocacy, fund development, marketing, arts law, along with other elements of the arts and cultural industry.

At the Renaissance, we employee arts administrators in the departments of fund development, marketing, executive leadership, bookings, box office, finance, and direction. Many of our staff have experience in both the arts and business, and some of our staff members hold degrees specific to arts management. Successful arts administrators possess a dual understanding of what it takes to make great art, alongside what is required to run a viable business.

I’ve had the opportunity to work in roles in both marketing and development at the Renaissance, as well as some positions and internships at institutions of higher education and non-profit arts advocacy. Before entering the field of arts administration, I studied music education and worked as a voice teacher and vocal music teacher in the public schools. In my experience, it has been especially helpful to be familiar with the composers, artists, shows, and elements that come together to perform a show so that I can communicate that story with our patrons, donors, and community at large.

An arts administrator needs to be organized, a self-starter, hard-working, and passionate about the arts to be successful, in my opinion. While the field is broad, many arts administrators are responsible for multiple job roles, particularly at smaller organizations. There’s always more that you can do to support a performance or exhibit, and being on top of your workload is key. In my specific roles in marketing and fund development, great communication skills are essential as well.

If you boil down my job as Director of Marketing to just one phrase, it would be “communicate with the audience about the organization and its programs.” In my previous role as Director of Development, that phrase would be, “communicate with donors and potential donors about the organization’s programs and opportunities to give.” We communicate through dozens of channels, in an effort to reach each individual in a meaningful way that is comfortable for them.

All of our arts administrators have to be great communicators, but often for different reasons. Our executive leaders (for us, that’s our President and CEO, Artistic Director and our Executive Director) need to be effective communicators with the staff, board, volunteers, and artists to ensure that the organization runs well, that the performances are successful, and that everyone stays on the same page.

Our Box Office and Front of House team need to be great customer service representatives, helping to communicate with the audience directly at the point of purchase and at our events, or when a problem arises. Our Bookings Manager must be able to negotiate and communicate with agents and with our artistic and technical staff to land on contracts that are reasonable for our team, profitable for our organization, and bookings that are attractive to our audience. Our Finance team needs to be detail-oriented and communicative with the staff and board about the financial position of the organization so that we are sustainable in the achievement of our vision and mission.

Interestingly, great communication skills make a great arts administrator, as well as a great artist. In my opinion, it’s one of the things that makes working in this field so much fun, and the people who work in it so fantastic.

Careers in the Arts - Renaissance Performing Arts photo by Jeff Sprang

Spotlight on Careers in the Arts

by Colleen Cook

High schoolers are often expected to determine their career path at the ripe old age of 16, planning out colleges, programs of study, and future careers they’d like to take up in their adult life. In some cases, students have a broad exposure to a wide field of employment, but students are human beings who tend to follow the paths that are familiar. When choosing their future careers, they consider those of their family members, mentors, and idols. They think about what they enjoy doing as a teenager and translate that into a profession.

When I was a high school student, I loved to sing. I enjoyed the camaraderie of being in a musical or an ensemble, and I had been mentored by my music teachers, so naturally the career path I chose was music education. I might have chosen music performance, but music education seemed like the more viable career option of what I thought were two choices in the music field.

Years later, I discovered the field of arts administration, along with many other careers, and I’ve often wondered: if I was aware of these career paths when I was in high school, would I have pursued something different?

Arts and culture as an industry contributes $704 billion to the economy in annual revenue.  There’s a wide range of careers and jobs in the arts, and many creative local economies are beginning to shift to an arts and culture-based model from an industrial economy.

In an effort to build awareness about careers in the arts, we’ll be doing a multi-week series of blog posts about the various career paths one can take in the arts in the coming weeks. You’ll hear from people working in the field as entrepreneurs, administrators, artists, and more. We can’t wait to share with you the depth and breadth of this fulfilling field.

SingOut2016_PhotoByJeffSprang

Three Things You Learn in Choir

by Colleen Cook

Like many singers, choir has been an important part of my life since I could walk and talk. My earliest choral experiences were at church in a “Cherub Choir” made up of preschoolers for the holiday concert. (Kudos to those of you corralling preschoolers to stand in one area and do anything!) Throughout my education, I was involved in several choirs at church and school, and even ended up working with choirs as music educator at the beginning of my career. A few things are always true about choirs: they bond people together.

For the past six years, the Mansfield Symphony Chorus has partnered with several high school choirs to create a magical concert we’ve called “Sing Out! A Choral Celebration.” This event has a synergy that’s palpable, with so many voices coming together in harmony to fill our theatre with beautiful singing. Young and old, experienced and novice, side by side singing together. It’s nothing short of magical.

The singers in these choirs and the people that lead them know that singing together truly evokes an experience unlike any other. It also teaches you some very important truths about yourself and others. Here are a few of the lessons I’ve learned from singing in choirs:

Every Voice Matters

It is truly remarkable how necessary each voice can be to a choir. The timbre of the chorus is impacted when a new voice comes or someone leaves, but so is the culture of the group. Anyone who has been in an ensemble can attest to certain voices that made the time together in rehearsals and performance special in one way or another. Each person brings something to the table when you sing in chorus.

Listen to the People Around You

It’s easy to tell a novice choral singer from an experienced one: the novice will sing without listening, but the experienced singer has learned to listen to those around them to match tone, vowel shapes, and timbre to create a seamless blend of voices. A beautiful choral sound comes from compromise: adjusting your own individual voice to match those around you, which can only happen if you listen.

Power Comes from Unity

There’s a piece being performed on our upcoming Sing Out! concert called “The Awakening,” by Joseph Martin. It’s one of my all-time favorites, and if you’ve heard it you’ll probably agree. There’s this really incredible moment when the chorus goes from singing multiple lines and parts to a powerful unison, singing “Awake, awake my soul and sing!” When performed well, you can’t help but have goosebumps from the intensity and the heart behind it. Voices in unison speaking the same message has power unlike much else.

Learn more about the Sing Out concert here.