Rachel Roberts

November 17, 2008


Eastman alumni and Arts Leadership Program Certificate recipient, Ms. Rachel Roberts is beginning her third season serving as the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra’s (ASO) Director of Strategic Planning Engagement. Her work with the ASO has focused on the strategic management of board governance and institutional culture. She also served as project manager for the Grand Opening of the ASO’s newest venue, the Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre at Encore Park, and subsequently managed the ASO’s inaugural summer season at the venue.

Rachel came to the ASO from the 2005-2006 class of League of American Orchestras’ Orchestra Management Fellowship Program. She managed the American Academy of Conducting Orchestra with David Zinman at the Aspen Music Festival, and worked with and was mentored by the senior leadership of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, South Dakota Symphony Orchestra, and Atlanta Symphony Orchestra. Prior to the Fellowship Program, Rachel worked two seasons as Artistic and Production Assistant with the Houston Symphony. There she managed guest artists, acted as video producer for classical and family programs, and worked on selected artistic projects, including collaboration with Music Director Hans Graf for a video installation of Stravinsky’s complete Firebird.

A native of Iowa, Rachel earned her bachelor’s degree in flute performance from the Eastman School of Music where she was also awarded a Certificate in the Catherine Filene Shouse Arts Leadership Program (ALP). Through the ALP program at Eastman, Rachel interned with both the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra’s Artistic and Operations Department and the Eastman School of Music’s Media and Public Relations Department. Additionally at Eastman, she performed and presented educational outreach programs extensively with her woodwind quintet and participated in a variety of summer music festivals including the Chautauqua Festival and the Ohio Light Opera Company Orchestra.

Why did you participate in the ALP program?

Coming from a small mid-western town in Iowa, I didn’t know anything of the “music business” other than performing. When I arrived at Eastman, I was very intrigued to learn more about the actual operations within the music business. I kept asking questions – and kept being directed to different ALP courses.

How has ALP helped you achieve your success and influenced or changed your musical career?

Without the numerous and varied opportunities provided by the ALP program (classes and internships), I would not have had the preparation, focus, and knowledge of the breadth of opportunities that existed in this field. It led me in a direction I didn’t know existed. Working in arts administration has given me a deeper appreciation for the arts. My focus has broadened from solely performing to performing combined with the numerous facets of the music business at large. This keeps me grounded in why I do what I do, and continues to build my appreciation for the performing arts.

Where did you work as an intern, and what did you gain from the experience?

My first internship was working with the professionals in the operation and production department of the Rochester Philharmonic.This was my first orchestra experience – and led me to my first professional job with the Houston Symphony in a similar department. From this first internship, I gained a knowledge and appreciation of what it truly takes to produce and run an orchestra.

I also worked in the Eastman Media/PR department, which helped me to understand the crucial importance of media and public relations, and the importance of communications throughout any organization.

Lastly, I interned with Elinor Freer and the Ying Quartet at the Montana Summer Music Festival. This opportunity provided me an exceptional foundation for seeing the impact any sized arts organization can have on any sized community. This internship continued to broaden my perspective of the opportunities available in the music business, and how one could most definitely fulfill their administrative abilities concurrently with professional artistic abilities.

Define “arts leadership” in your own words.

Being a leader in the arts should be recognized at all the levels throughout this business – whether at the musicians’ level, the staff level, the board level, the volunteers’ level, or the community level. Each part is integral to the success of the other, both in its artistic creativity and innovation, and continues to build upon each other to further the art that we each love.

What is the biggest obstacle classical musicians face today?

We as musicians and artists passionately value what we do; however, in our changing society this often is lost. Enjoying our art is one matter; however, remaining relevant to society is another.

I believe ALP helps us begin to be more acutely aware of the society around us, and demands that we contemplate and plan for being a relevant, integral part of that society.

“I would not be where I am today without the ALP program.”