My undergrad experience was centered around my music performance degree, which I received from the College of Charleston in 2016. The way forward for me, at least as far as I could see, involved thousands of late nights, in hundreds of bars and clubs, playing the same forty jazz guitar standards over and over again. This seemed like the greatest possible contribution I could make to live music. During the years post-graduation, I felt like I was truly in love with my art form and being a performer, and that was plenty for me. However, as is often the case, only when we get exactly what we want do we realize that there is more out there to pursue. Slowly but surely, my relationship to performance no longer satisfied my personal and professional ambitions. As I was preparing to explore other professional avenues, the entire world shut down. That was in early 2020, I like many was suddenly adrift.
As with other performers, I had to wait for the world to reopen, but I knew that I would find my place when it did. I also knew that place wouldn’t necessarily be onstage. I was fortunate to be living in Lewisburg, PA at the time, and when the Weis Center for the Performing Arts at Bucknell University reopened for the 2021 season, I was able to join on as a stage technician. From this vantage point, I was able to view the performance experience through a new lens. I began to see the type of work that happened before, during and after a show, and I started to consider my place in this machine. I saw myself standing on the other side of the stage. The next step was to find a graduate program to further my understanding of the profession of arts management.
This year in the MA-ACE Leadership Program, I am placed with the Wisconsin Union Theater for my Applied Learning Placement. My current work with the WUT is helping me clarify some ideas and skills that are related to artist relations, and day of production tasks. Additionally, grant writing is an area that I have been diving into, and I will have ample opportunity this year to work towards proficiency in that field.
I don’t consider myself an expert in any one of the fields surrounding the production calendar, from advance work, rider negotiations, technical outlay, or the performance itself. What I have found though is that my experiences have led me to a place where I can effectively communicate between the various groups that are necessary for productions. What I originally viewed as a collection of unrelated professional experiences: performance, tech, promotion, etc, is actually serving as my Rosetta Stone, in an effort to streamline the multi person effort that goes into any and every live production. My goal in the Bolz Center this year is to round out my skillset and better understand the administrative work and management that helps support the arts. Over one month in, and I’m well on my way to doing so.