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MA Top 30 Professional of the Year: Monica Felkel
By Clive Paget
December 3, 2019
Director of Artist Management
For 30 years, Monica Felkel has worked for Young Concert Artists, a nonprofit organization dedicated to launching the careers of exceptional young musicians from all over the world. As artist manager and director of artist management, she has nurtured an impressive array of young artists including cellist Edgar Moreau, soprano Julia Bullock, and pianist Jeremy Denk. For many in the business, Felkel isn’t just a dedicated professional, she’s an institution.
As a high school violist, Felkel played in the New York Youth Symphony where the music director spotted burgeoning admirative talent. “It may have had more to do with the fact that lots of percussion equipment had to be transported to rehearsals and my mother drove a 1976 Buick Century Station Wagon,” she quips. “When I was applying to colleges, I knew I wanted to do some sort of arts administration program, but they really didn’t exist in the mid-80s. So, I ended up designing my own degree program at Ithaca College.”
Over the past 30 years at YCA, Felkel has implemented new initiatives and provided resources to support young musicians artistically as well as strategically, responding to an industry where increasingly a performer needs more than a successful debut and good reviews to have a sustainable career. “Artists also need to build a presence on social media, seek out new projects and collaborations, and explore more creative ways to find new audiences and venues—not just in the U.S., but internationally,” she says.
“I am particularly proud of the Orchestra Partners Program we created in 2001, [which] offers a reduced fee to orchestras that have never previously engaged a YCA artist. Through a grant that pays the artist the difference, the artist receives their full fee and the orchestra and its audience get to discover YCA and our fabulous artists.”
Felkel defines her role as listening, advising, and challenging young artists to effectively communicate and build a career. Often that includes some fun details. “Dress shopping with a former violinist for a gala,” is one example she recalls. “By the end of the day we were all just trying on the most ridiculous gowns the stores had and laughing until it hurt. Ultimately that is what has kept me in the crazy business for the past 30 years.”
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