Gateways to Jobs in Arts Administration

by Edna Landau

To ask a question, please write Ask Edna.

Dear Edna:

I hope you won’t mind a slightly different question from those you have been answering so splendidly and thoroughly in your excellent columns, asked by one of your former colleagues and longtime friends. I come from a small town in the United Kingdom. Many decades ago when I was in my teens, I knew that I wanted to work in the international music business but in those days it was impossible to find anyone to advise how to achieve that goal. I therefore decided to apply for a graduate traineeship with the BBC, which I was exceedingly fortunate to get. With that grounding, I was able to move into opera and orchestral management. I now receive requests from a lot of younger people who genuinely want to work in an administrative capacity but have absolutely no idea how to enter the business of arts management. What advice would you give to those wishing to get on the first rung of the ladder, whether that be working in an artists’ management company or a professional performing arts organization? —John Duffus

Dear John:

Great to hear from you and happy to answer such a fundamentally important question to many of our readers. The happy news is that there are probably many more opportunities available to those aspiring to jobs in arts administration than there were when you and I were young. It seems less critical to have participated in an arts administration program if the objective is to secure a position in artist management, than it might be to work in a performance venue or organization such as an orchestra or opera house. There is an extremely gifted and capable young man working at IMG Artists by the name of James Egelhofer, whom we hired while I was working there. He had just graduated from Brown University with an interesting and promising resumé but he obviously had no experience in the field. I could tell after a few minutes of his interview that he would be a star and he went on to manage significant artists while still in his 20’s,  after having learned the trade by servicing a group of artists, observing his co-workers’ activities and asking a lot of terrific questions. IMG Artists is lucky to still have him. In recognition of the indistinct path towards jobs in artist management, a joint venture was recently undertaken by the University of New Orleans, Arts Northwest and the North American Performing Arts Managers and Agents (NAPAMA) to launch a professional certification program for performing arts and managers. Courses are offered online and in person at professional conferences.

The pathway to other arts administration jobs might also consist of working one’s way up the ladder from an entry level position. However, it should be noted that there are some wonderful arts administration programs throughout North America and in Europe as well. Among them is an arts management program offered by Teachers College/Columbia University, whom we are delighted to have as our “Ask Edna” sponsor this month. A comprehensive list of such programs is offered on the website of the Association of Arts Administration Educators. Musical America also offers a list of such programs on its website (available to subscribers) and in their annual directory, which is accessible in many school libraries.

Although you only asked about getting on “the first rung of the ladder,” I would like to add that there are some important programs available to individuals who have already gained experience in the arts management field but who wish to graduate to a more advanced position. These should be treasured in our difficult economic climate. Among them are the League of American Orchestras’ Orchestra Management Fellowship Program and Essentials of Orchestra Management, National Arts Strategies’ executive education and organizational leadership programs, and the Clore Leadership Programme in London. If one were to look at the resumés of those currently holding leaderhip positions in the arts throughout the world, a good number would reflect participation in the excellent arts administration programs mentioned above and on offer throughout the world. I am sure that our readers have information to share on this topic and I hope we will be hearing from you soon!

I would love to have YOUR question! Please write Ask Edna.

©Edna Landau 2011

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