This season marks my fourteenth year as a working (read: paid) choral conductor. Last season, I finally struck the word "emerging" from my bio as it was starting to seem a little forced. Nope, I'm not "emerging". I've emerged; here I am. I think I'm more properly known as a mid-career professional, these days.
But one thing I've been struggling with is this: what kind of professional am I? While my training is in singing and choral conducting, my job description gives only about 30% of my hours to that work.
The rest? Well, I'm an administrator. In fact, this is what I call myself nowadays when asked by someone outside the music world. ("Arts administrator" is so much more understandable to a customs official than "choral conductor".)
I've been Kokopelli's executive director for seven years now. But until recently, I've struggled with the truth of that. What does it mean, to be a choral conductor who does administrative work? Or, more truthfully, to be an administrator who conducts two nights a week?
We might call it paying the bills. There's plenty of that in the arts world, even for us mid-career types. We might also think of it as a bit of a failure, especially as seen through the eyes of those emerging artists. As a student and young professional, you don't exactly dream of writing policy and revising handbooks.
But for me, more and more, being an administrator who practices art, or an artist who does administrative work... well, it's a way of being the change you want to see in the world. I have the unique position of being able to dream a dream, and then work on the infrastructure to support it directly. I also get to support and promote the dreams of other artists in my organization, which actually feels nicer and less self-centered than that last thing -- but I don't have to stop doing the work that is my passion. And, surprisingly, doing administrative work is increasingly passionate for me. I'm helping to craft this organization as it enters its third decade, and the choices I champion to our board of directors will directly impact the musical lives of over 360 singers. That's -- kind of cool.
I'm a mid-career conductor, yes. But I think I'm also an emerging administrator. And I'm pretty darn proud of that.