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Leadership in the Arts: Art, Music and Theatre

March 1, 2019 | Hannah Gainer, CASSH Communicaitons Assistant |

CFE's “Leadership in the Arts" featured UWF music and theatre faculty, as well as an art curator with the Pensacola Museum of Art.

“Leadership in the fine and performing arts is extremely important. In order to communicate your artistic vision, you have to be confident in what you want to create. Once you know the vision you’re communicating, your leadership will help you facilitate it. You will lead the charge while at the same time collaborating with a team. Leadership in this way really makes the fine and performing arts so unique,” said Marci Duncan, UWF associate professor of acting.

The Center of Entrepreneurship (CFE) is one of UWF College of Business’ community and outreach programs. CFE encourages and supports educational initiatives related to entrepreneurship and entrepreneurial thinking. Additionally, it serves as a comprehensive resource for economic innovation for students, faculty, industry and community partners. This semester, CFE has hosted a weekly lecture series. On Feb. 13, they welcomed the fine and performing arts faculty for “Leadership in the Arts.” This lecture focused on how artists in music, theater and art defined leadership within their fields.

The panelist included: Abigail Walker, instructor of basson at UWF; Marci Duncan, assistant professor of Acting at UWF; and Anna Wall, curator in collections at the Pensacola Museum of Art.

This event was moderated by Dr. Steven Brown, dean of the UWF College of Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities. Brown received bachelor’s and master’s degrees in music education from Arkansas State University, and a doctorate of philosophy in music from North Texas State University.

Panelists provided more information about themselves and answered questions on their lessons learned in leadership.

Panelist Biography:

Abigail Walker has served as Instructor of Bassoon at UWF and has an active private bassoon and piano studio. Walker is an active substitute musician with the Alabama Symphony Orchestra. Additionally, she is co-principal bassoon with the Northwest Florida Symphony Orchestra and the Pensacola Symphony Orchestra.

Marci Duncan is an assistant professor of acting who teaches acting for the stage and camera at UWF. Duncan is an actress who holds multiple credits in stage, film, commercial and television drama. Duncan currently serves as chair for the Southeastern Theatre Conference Auditions Committee and as a board member and the vice president for the Florida Theatre Conference.

Anna Wall is a curator in collections at the Pensacola Museum of Art (PMA), and her role includes preserving, developing and exhibiting PMA’s collection of modern and contemporary art. Prior to joining the PMA team; Wall served as a collections specialist at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.

During this event, panelists discussed their experiences that lead up to where they are today and the lessons in leadership they learned on the way.

Q: From your undergraduate years, what do you wish you would have known as an undergraduate student that you know now?

Abigail Walker:

Walker shared she wished she would have known how important organization was. Being a freelance musician and owning her business, she has to stay on top of everything. There isn’t room for error. She shared that prioritizations will sometimes change, but it’s necessary for each artist to decide what is most important -people, place or prestige. Walker had to learn to make time for herself, which came by making a daily routine. She said that she believes all work is good work. If it’s artful, an opportunity, lucrative and long-term; take it.

She said, “Try to find the upside to every “negative” situation you face. Don’t complain and make no excuses. Nobody cares if you’re sick or late, you show up and do the job. Practice being early, be who you want to be in the future.”

Walker shared that she would tell her college self to stay encouraged. She conveyed that meaningful work is worth the investment even in the times you feel surrounded by disregard.

Marci Duncan:

“Being in college and being an undergrad is the best time of your life, because as a student you have access to so much,” said Duncan.

Duncan wished she didn’t have “tunnel vision” when she was in college, she only focused on her goals and dreams.She stated that she regrets not thinking of her discipline in a way that branches out in many different areas, because she could have gotten skills that would have enhanced her discipline. She added, that this is the best time to make mistakes.

“In the professional world, when you make a mistake, they don’t want to hire you again,” said Duncan.”This is the time to explore and fall down, because you have someone there to tell you what you did wrong.”

Anna Wall:

Wall thought that as long as she was getting good grades, she had everything going for her. She didn’t dive directly into her career, she wanted to explore. She thought as an undergrad that she just needed to get the grades move on and then really start doing the job. As an undergrad, she didn’t build those connections, she stated that she never asked her professors for help with where she wanted to go.

“Having a career in the arts, you don’t know anyone and you are up against a lot of people fighting for the same jobs and opportunities as you,” said Wall.

She shared that being in the arts, [artists] need to be connected and in doing that, it will require [them] to market [themselves]. She had to learn how to sell and market herself.

“Now, I am the biggest proponent of networking and meeting anyone. I will email anyone at any museum and introduce myself and ask them for help,” said Wall.

Wall added, “You will have to find new ways to get engaged when doing the same job for years. Try and make new connections and get new skills. Allow yourself to try new things and grow as much as you can.”

Q: What moment do you think made the largest impact on you becoming successful in your field?

Abigail Walker:

Walker had an audition in Philadelphia at the Curtis School of Music, where they only took 150 students. At 18 years old, Walker decided she would audition. A month prior, she developed tendinitis and was unable to practice for more than 20 minutes a day. When it came time for her audition, she placed second in her discipline. She was completely devastated, but came to realization that getting second place was an accomplishment. Walker decided that since she was runner up at Curtis, she would apply for Rice, Manhattan, Yale and Julliard in the next year. She got accepted with full scholarships to all of the schools she applied to.

“I found out that failing is probably the most important thing in a freelance career, that you learn how to process failure and I think it was very crucial,” said Walker.

Also, Walker wished she would have known that failure can be a catalyst that offers specific directions on how to improve.

Marci Duncan:

Duncan recalled being in undergrad and looking up to one of her professors. She recalled going into her professor's office and telling her what she wanted to do. Her professor spoke so much life to her situation that she felt like she could fly. She knew that very moment that she could really pursue the goals she had for herself, because she knew that her professor was sincere in what she said. Duncan credited mentorship being the largest impact on the road to being successful in her career.

Anna Wall:

The largest impact on Wall being successful was her decision to never be complacent or settle. When she left her great job in New Orleans and moved to New York, that was a huge decision for her. She realized that she didn’t need to stay on this path, she could take risks and try new things. If she ended up getting a job she didn’t like, that it would be okay because she could keep trying and find new experiences.

Panelists came from from different backgrounds and careers, but they all learned similar lessons along their way to success. They shared that there are many different resources that are available to college students. Whether those are professors, career services, or advisors, they are very important tools to use when it comes down to figuring out “what’s next?” These panelists shared the importance of remaining focused. They emphasized that failure isn’t always seen as a negative, but can be a catalyst that offers specific directions on how to improve. Panelists encouraged the audience to “mistakes now, so that you can learn from them and you’ll be a better you tomorrow.”

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