Elizabeth Olson ('14)
Concert & Artist Marketing Assistant at Steinway & Sons, NY

What lies behind a good performance? Quality certainly hinges upon the performer’s preparation, but equally important is a fluid administrative system with diligent concert promoters, artistic directors, executive team members, event coordinators, finance managers, and fundraisers.

Olson2.jpgElizabeth Olson has a foot in both worlds: as a performance major at Furman, she regularly participated in student concerts and recitals, while summer internships allowed her to explore the business of arts administration. One of those internships became her full time job.

During Olson’s first year at Furman, Keith Lockhart ’81, conductor of the Boston Pops Orchestra, challenged music students to take advantage of opportunities that could expand their musical experience, professional network, and entrepreneurial skills. After considering her interests, Olson developed a plan that would take shape over the next two summers: develop a network in New York City, learn about areas in arts administration, and attain a deeper appreciation for the business and philanthropic engines that generate and fund the arts.

Keys to the city

To achieve these goals, Olson first reached out to her Furman resources on campus. “Susan Zeiger, internship program director, helped me understand professional etiquette and how to navigate the job market. I spent time researching internships and met with Ms. Zeiger at least once a month,” she says.

Several of Olson’s professors encouraged her to contact Nichole Martini ’07, a Furman alumna working in arts administration in New York City. During her sophomore spring break, the two met and discussed Martini’s experience in the field and her position with Cultural Strategies Initiative (CSI), a nonprofit that promotes the arts. They stayed in touch, and Olson applied and was accepted as a CSI summer 2012 intern. During that summer, she also interned with the New York Youth Symphony.

“Nichole was purposeful in mentoring and exposing me to many aspects of arts administration. I assisted with public relations, fundraising, foundation research, organizational development, and compiling the annual report.” Martini also introduced Olson to Jennifer Gordon, manager of Concert & Artist Activities at Steinway & Sons, and Abigail Mohlin, director of Annual Giving at the Juilliard School, both of whom later offered her summer internships. “Susan Zeiger advised me on how to negotiate my hours so that I could do internships at both Juilliard and Steinway.”

Getting down to business

At The Juilliard School, Olson helped plan special events for their young patron group including the Juilliard Club’s Spring Benefit, Garden Party, and a collaborative event with Baublebar and Uprise Art. She also conducted a research project, which entailed interfacing with NYC institutions including the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, the Metropolitan Opera, Carnegie Hall, and the New York Philharmonic.

In the Concert & Artist Department at Steinway Hall, the flagship store of Steinway & Sons, Olson assisted with customer relations management projects pertaining to the Steinway Artist roster, which includes classical pianists like Emanuel Ax, jazz stars like Diana Krall, and pop icons like Billy Joel. “I encountered many world-class concert pianists who came in for rehearsals, photo shoots, piano selections, and meetings,” she says. “Having colleagues at both Steinway and Juilliard enabled me to understand the mutual interests of both institutions and to initiate ideas for collaboration.”

In her free time, Olson contacted leaders in the arts community to solicit career advice. To her delight, many took the time to talk, including Sir Clive Gillinson, the executive and artistic director of Carnegie Hall, and Elizabeth Hurley, vice president of the Juilliard School. Olson also met with other Furman alumni including Leslie Leung, associate manager of Program Planning at Carnegie, and Erika Powell, choral artist at the
New York Philharmonic.

“These alumni, faculty, and staff connections have defined my Furman experience by mentoring me as a student, inspiring me as an artist, and opening doors to future career prospects. I am very thankful for these opportunities and look forward to joining the Furman alumni network.”

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