I was a music major as an undergraduate, and went directly into arts administration where I held positions at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and Make Music New York, before spending three years as development manager for New Music USA, which funds contemporary music around the country. From there, I realized that I needed a broader set of skills to be competitive in the arts management world and to lead, not just in the next five to ten years, but beyond that. I decided to come to Yale SOM both because of its strong credentials as a business school and because of its connection to the arts.
Yale SOM is a very creative environment. There are a lot of people here who are inspired by the arts and by innovation and the ways that they intersect with whatever their professional interests are. The secret talents here are amazing. When you’re a first-year and you’ve been interacting with people mainly in classes and in small groups, you don’t realize it. But then you come to something like the SOM Coffeehouse and all of a sudden your close friends are playing an instrument you had no idea they played or dancing or singing or showing off a piece of art they made. It’s really exciting, and it builds closer relationships during our time here.
I’m a classically trained violinist, though these days I mostly play fiddle with my bluegrass band Cole Quest and the City Pickers. As an arts administrator, it is really important to me to actually perform as an artist as well. The two sides reinforce each other. I would say a lot of people around SOM are like that. They have something—a hobby or a passion—that isn’t what they do professionally, but that complements it and enables them to do it better.
My internship was at Lincoln Center, and I was able to bring a lot of my SOM skills to the table. I was part of a team that was working on a growth initiative, trying to expand audience and reach, and I also worked on an internal operations project there—both really fascinating. A lot of the concepts I learned in classes like Competitor, Operations, and Innovator were extremely useful. Innovative business strategy is needed in the cultural sector today, and institutions are increasingly recognizing the value that MBAs bring to the table.