Business Schools

Hitting the High Notes


How this Wisconsin grad's specialized MBA from the Bolz Center helped him bring a competitive edge to a nonprofit performing arts organization

I am the director of Interlochen Presents at the Interlochen Center for the Arts in Michigan. Primarily known as an arts education center, the organization also offers live presentations and public radio programs—more than 500 annual events. I'm responsible for all operations relating to the hundreds of professional and student performances we present. This includes the selection and booking of artists, box office operations, production logistics, event marketing, and venue management. Most of these events consist of student and faculty performances, screenings, poetry readings, and art exhibitions. There are also guest professional presentations ranging from pop artists such as k.d. lang and Willie Nelson to classical artists such as Van Cliburn and Yo-Yo Ma.

Before going back to business school, I was the associate director of programming and concert operations at Jazz at Lincoln Center in New York City. During my five years there, I also worked as a freelance record producer and had the chance to work on quite a few jazz and world music albums, including the Grammy-winning album Bebo de Cuba featuring Bebo Valdes. While working in New York, I realized that I wanted to pursue a long-term career in the arts. I noticed that for an increasing number of senior-level job postings in the industry, Master's degrees were strongly preferred and decided to earn an MBA from the University of Wisconsin-Madison's Bolz Center for Arts Administration. Less than one week after graduation, my family and I made the 10-hour drive from Madison to Interlochen in northern Michigan.

Here's a typical day:

7:06 a.m.—There's nothing better than waking up to the sound of your toddler babbling and giggling from across the house. On concert days, breakfast and morning play is my block of quality time with our little girl.

8:32 a.m.—Out the door for the 15-minute drive to work. I listen to Mike & Mike in the Morning to stay current on all the sports news and gossip.

9 a.m.—Weekly senior staff meeting to cover everything from finances and strategy to personnel issues. This week's hot topic is our preparation for the upcoming board meeting.

10:06 a.m.—Head down to the Kresge Auditorium, our 3,929-seat outdoor, covered amphitheater, to meet the first semitruckload of lighting equipment for the evening's concert—a double-bill with lang and Lyle Lovett. Kresge is the biggest of four auditoriums and used for larger acts such as Lovett or Bob Dylan. We can handle as many as three semitruckloads of equipment, plus three or four tour buses.

10:33 a.m.—Return voice mails and e-mails to artist agents and managers. Throughout the entire year, I need to juggle multiple artist negotiations for performances both in the near-term and far into the future...

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Kwan is a member of the University of Wisconsin -Madison MBA class of 2007 .

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