The Work Seminar

Ep. 9: Dan Coleman - MM in Orchestral Performance Turned Fine Arts Exec & Fundraiser

December 29, 2021 Jesse Butts Season 1 Episode 9
The Work Seminar
Ep. 9: Dan Coleman - MM in Orchestral Performance Turned Fine Arts Exec & Fundraiser
Show Notes Transcript

Dan underwent a “seismic shift” in perspective during the throes of finishing his MM in orchestral performance. After graduation, he stowed away his trumpet…and plans for a performance career.

But after a few years, the musical itch resurfaced. 

He started playing and teaching private lessons again for fun. For work, he landed a general manager position at a small symphony.

And so Dan’s shift to the fundraising and development side of the fine arts began. 

Since then, he’s worked for several major musical institutions, including the Cleveland Orchestra, Detroit Symphony Orchestra, and San Francisco Symphony. 

Making these leaps required constant learning, acting on tough feedback, and sacrifice. Luckily for us, Dan shares his tips for picking up the skills and mindset shifts to make big changes and reach the executive level. 

And he doesn’t shy away from discussing his struggles with work’s and music’s role in his life.

Books & other resources mentioned

Designing Your Life by Bill Burnett and Dave Evans

Rising Strong, Daring Greatly, Dare to Lead by Brene Brown

Brene Brown’s podcasts

DISC, Myers Briggs, or Birkrman work/personality assessments

LinkedIn Learning (formerly Lynda.com)

Lyrics to Miley Cyrus’ “The Climb” 

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Jesse Butts:

Welcome to The Work Seminar. The podcast for people with liberal arts advanced degrees considering work outside their fields of study. Hey, everyone, thanks for joining me for another episode. I'm your host, Jesse Butts. Today I'm chatting with Dan Coleman, a master of music and orchestral performance from Indiana University Bloomington turned fine arts senior executive and fundraiser. Fun fact, Dan and I were undergrads together at Capital University. Fast forward a few years, Dan is now the Senior Director of Development at San Francisco Symphony. Dan, welcome to the show. So glad you can join me.

Dan Coleman:

Hi, Jesse. And thanks for having me.

Jesse Butts:

Absolutely. So before we talk about your career path, which sounds like a very interesting one, can you tell me a little bit about what you're doing at the San Francisco Symphony? You know, what is a...what does development mean in the context of the performing and fine arts?

Dan Coleman:

Absolutely. It's a really great question. To start with, I would say that if you're thinking of what development is, think about everything when it comes to the almighty dollar in the country. And sort of the revenue the organization needs to move forward. Typically, development refers to philanthropic revenue. So folks contributing of their hard earned dollars, and many different ways to sort of support the vision and the mission of an institution. And so as Senior Director of Development, I'm the head of the development operation for the San Francisco Symphony. And it's a team of nearly 30 professionals full time. And we're all working with our board and various volunteers to move forward our philanthropic needs that ultimatel, secure the dollars necessary for the organization to perform all the concerts you see at Davies Symphony Hall, or when it's not COVID-19 times on tour around the world. And it's just an incredibly important role, because everything that happens is made possible because of the philanthropic support of many individuals.

Jesse Butts:

And is there a distinction between development and fundraising in this context?

Dan Coleman:

In some regards? Yes. And in some regards? No. So development is more like long term thinking about the organization's development. And fundraising can be more of the act, the official act of asking for money, perhaps. But ultimately, they're very much used interchangeably. So there's no wrong question or no wrong way to approach development professionals on that subject, in my opinion, at least.

Jesse Butts:

Got it. I saw, I can't remember where I saw this, but recently, I read somewhere that even if a symphony sold out every show, the cost of running the organization, the cost of, you know, the performance exceeds whatever the box office would bring in. Hence, the need for the philanthropy. Is that roughly accurate?

Dan Coleman:

100% accurate. We call it, on a high level, that every seat in the house is subsidized. Every seat. So even if you're paying 200 bucks to sit in the box chair, we still need that extra philanthropy, which can range depending on the size of the orchestra. 30 to 50% of the budget can be philanthropy in a typical year.

Jesse Butts:

Oh, wow. So I'm curious. Obviously, you were in the performance area. As an undergrad, I remember you were a trumpet performance major. And then you decided to pursue that in grad school. So can you tell us a little bit about why you enrolled in grad school? What made you want to go beyond your undergrad studies?

Dan Coleman:

Yeah, then thinking back to the Dan Coleman of those days, 2006. And what was going through my mind, and I was very focused on performing. And I really believed in the future where I would be on stage, in a hall, performing music. And I thought at that time, it could be a whole host of things. But mainly orchestral music seemed to be sort of front and center at that point in my thinking in my professional journey. But I think as you remember, I was involved in so much on campus and was playing with the orchestra and the jazz band, the wind ensemble, gigging and just kind of out there in the community, doing all kinds of things. But I was very much thinking that, you know, I was headed towards a performance career, and I thought, Okay, how better to take the next step, defer the reality of student loan payments, and, you know, go on to something that would further my studies, you know, and sort of take my trumpet playing to the next level. And I thought, at that time, a master's degree was the logical step. And Indiana University as a fabulous program for performance. And so I thought, Okay, that made a lot of sense. So that was, that was my thinking at that time that led me to look at a grad school, and that was one of many grad schools I was looking at that I ultimately chose.

Jesse Butts:

How many schools did you ended up applying to?

Dan Coleman:

Oof, I think it was I looked at for three or four. And I applied only to two of them. And then once I actually is a really weird story, but I went out to Indiana University, auditioned on a weekend, and by the next Friday I had an acceptance letter. So I just cancelled all my other auditions and chose Indiana.

Jesse Butts:

How was that experience at Indiana University? Did it live up to what you were expecting as an undergrad?

Dan Coleman:

Wow, I don't know if I knew what to expect. Other than I know, Jim Stokes was the trumpet professor at Capital at that point in time. And I remember, you know, he had been an IU grad, and a number of folks in my life were IU, sort of related musically speaking. And so there was a logical sort of connection there. And then when I got to school, it kind of at times was more than I could have ever imagined. I mean, there was like 60 or 70 trumpet players there and Capitol had maybe like eight. And so it was just such a massive machine, a cool machine of all these talented musicians. And I mean, you were always like running to practice rooms to try to get them. Brass players would constantly, we would pass practice rooms all day, because if you didn't, you might not get one. There were so many music students from violin to trombone to trumpet or whatever. And it was just, it was really interesting kind of diving into some deeper subjects in music. The performance opportunities. The campus is beautiful there. I mean, I just absolutely fell in love with the sparkle and magic of their campus. And I'm a proud Hoosier alumni, by the way, I should throw that out there. And loved my days at IU. It was just a really magical time period of my life. And it really took the person coming out of Capital and molded me in ways that I never would have imagined.

Jesse Butts:

So as you were finishing your time at Indiana University, did you still have a similar mindset to when you entered that you thought performance would be a large part of your life? Or did did something start to shift in your perspective at that time?

Dan Coleman:

Oh, yeah, definitely shifting perspective would be that. It was massive, it was a seismic shift. I remember, I was broken down as a person at that time. And I remember, you know, finishing my grad studies, and my recital, and I got everything done early. And I actually left college a month early and took my first full-time job. And it was in LGBTQ organizing in Ohio. And so I actually returned to Columbus, worked for Equality Ohio, and was a community organizer and put my trumpet in the case under my bed and called it a day for a while. And it went on like that for a few years before I started to find my way back to music.

Jesse Butts:

Was it a scenario where you were really interested in community organizing, you really wanted to be involved in LGBTQ work? Or was it something like you just wanted to find something full time and get away from music for a while, and regardless of what it might be?

Dan Coleman:

A little bit of all of that. And I was really passionate because I was involved with Pride at Capital University as the president. And that's their LGBTQ student group. And then at Indiana, I was involved at the LGBT Center. And I worked there as well as ran a group called First Fridays, which was just this very chill and wonderful gathering once a month for people to come together of all sexual orientations and gender identities and just connect around a bagel and a pop or a coffee and just sit down and talk. And it was a really great little thing. And I think it's still going on actually, which is so cool. Well, I don't know, you know, with COVID, if it's going on, but it was before COVID going on. And I think those things inspired me to think about how I could help others. I've always had this passionate side about helping others and improving the world around me and sort of seeing all boats rise together mentality. And I was kind of frayed with music. I was in a place where I just knew that. The reality was, is I needed a lot more performance experience than a degree. And I didn't have enough of that to be taken serious. In some regards, at some orchestras and others, I could have gotten the audition, but I didn't have the chops yet to win a gig at that level. And so it was this weird conundrum of that and my energy level, and my passion was shifting. And so I thought, you know, my love for music didn't leave. It never left. It never will leave. It just was this moment of like, okay, well, I need to make money, I have bills to pay. The reality world is setting in and I had to make some decisions. And so I ended up, I ended up going down that path. And it was really interesting. And it was it was something that inspired me as a professional and took me to the next level. But I, at the time, didn't really understand necessarily more than it was that connection to passion of I'm going to go help others. I'm going to go organize around LGBTQ issues in Ohio. And I just went full throttle forward in that direction.

Jesse Butts:

I just want to make sure I understood you correctly. Did you say during most of your time in this position, you pretty much left your trumpet in its case? Or was that just more of the early part of taking that role?

Dan Coleman:

Oh, yeah, yeah, I actually put the trumpet away. As soon as I was done with all my playing responsibilities at Indiana. I would later, come years later in my history, after this time period, I would come back to playing and teaching, which is the very interesting thing as a side gig when I had a different job with the state of Ohio, but just kind of bounced around a little bit like a ping pong ball.

Jesse Butts:

So how long were you, did you work as a community organizer?

Dan Coleman:

I don't think I made it an entire year on the job. I want to say it was like nine or 10 months. And again, that was my first full-time gig out of college. So I poured in, gave it my all, was very successful, but ultimately, you know, the whatever you call it, you know, the energy in the world or whatever, it pulled me out of that and took me elsewhere. And so it's very interesting how that can happen.

Jesse Butts:

After that role, did you enter the performing arts world again? Or was there another job or some other jobs in between?

Dan Coleman:

There were a couple other jobs in there that caught my attention. And I remember one of them was working at a country club. And then I kind of bounced around into working for the Bureau of Motor Vehicles. And then I found my way as a licensed Bureau employee, which meant I was a employee of a contractor for the state. Sorry, that's complicated. But essentially, you want your license your plates, I was helping clerk and do all of those things. And then I bounced into driver's license examination work, and I work for the Troopers. And then the Troopers under, I can't remember which governor, I believe it was Kasich at the time, sent us to the BMV. And so the driver's examiner crew shifted divisions to the BMV. And then after that, I actually ended up back in music with my first full-time music job. But I worked for the state. And so a little bit of government work in there, some nonprofit work, and some for-profit work in the years in between, sort of coming back to music and leaving music.

Jesse Butts:

And where was that first position back in music?

Dan Coleman:

Yeah, so that was at the Ashland Symphony Orchestra in Ashland, Ohio. And I served as general manager. Fun fact, in the news release in the Ashland newspaper, I was listed as their general manger. So I was where you generally put somebody in a thing for babies. And so it was kind of a little goofy thing. But it was a it was an all hats...you know, I wore every hat at the organization. I was the only employee other than the conductor. And so I would put the music on the conductor stand. I would do the bowings for the violins. I would book the singer, or the guest soloist. I would also pick them up at the airport. I would run the board meeting, or the board meeting would run me mostly. I would do the ticket sales. I would enter the data. I'd follow up with a gift. I'd send a thank you note. I tried to talk to somebody about an estate commitment. I would do future season planning, strategic planning, I mean, you name it, it was just like every little job under the sun. And it was a really great opportunity to really get my head around how to run an orchestra. And believe it or not, the ticket sales did not equal the donation need for the organization. And so then we needed to go out and get donations to cover the gap. And so it was just a really great lesson in life. Actually, fun fact, a Capital University professor made the connection that helped me make that transition and ultimately get the job. It was Lisa Jelle, the flute instructor.

Jesse Butts:

So that was something I was curious about. Were you at a point where you were looking to get back into performing arts? Were you pounding the pavement? Did this professor just happen to reconnect with you and had mentioned it...How did all this come to be that you were able to reenter the field?

Dan Coleman:

Yeah, I had my eye on some jobs at the time. I remember there was this like...to step back a step, I had this itch inside me and I'll tell you what, this itch, the itch inside you is one of those things, you really have to find a way to listen to and for everybody, that ability to listen to that itch is different. And I know for me, my life is probably a lesson in listening to every inch that comes along. And sometimes that's not good either. But it's my story, and it's my path and my journey and I love it. And when it comes to this, it's like I kept feeling like I enjoyed doing driver's examinations and I enjoyed the consistency of the job, and I was involved in the union and I was a union steward as well. And so I'd taken on a little bit more in being a leader. And at the time, I just remember seeing some job postings at the Cleveland Orchestra, I.'d see a job posting here and I was like, Oh, that's interesting. Or I was playing trumpet in a couple of orchestras at that time. It was Ashland Symphony, Mansfield Symphony and a couple other places across Ohio. And I was doing some musicals and things like that. And so I was playing, teaching and then working, you know, driver's examiner by day, trumpet player by night. So it was this call from Lisa Jelle, the professor of flute, and she was like, Hey, you know, the Ashland Symphony's looking for a general manager. I think you should check it out. And it was just this really sort of serendipitous moment where it was like, Oh, I am thinking about this. And, and so I took that call. And I remember the interview. I want to say it was a round robin interview, you know, a table full of people, and just me and it just was so intense. And everybody had a question or multiple questions. And ultimately, I was really lucky to be the one they offered the job to.

Jesse Butts:

You've landed your first job with a small symphony. And Ashland's like an hour, hour and a half outside of Columbus, if I'm remembering correctly?

Dan Coleman:

Right? Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Jesse Butts:

Okay. So what time frame is this roughly? Like 2011 or 12, or something like that?

Dan Coleman:

Very close. It was 2013.

Jesse Butts:

So at this point, you're about like, five years out of grad school when you're working in Asheville. And is that roughly correct?

Dan Coleman:

Yeah. Yeah, like maybe closer to seven or eight I, if I added correctly, but it's been a while. I don't want to age myself too prematurely here.

Jesse Butts:

Got it? No, I totally understand. So as you're working there, obviously you've ended up with the San Francisco Symphony. But I'm assuming one doesn't leap from Ashland to San Francisco. What followed Ashland, the Ashland Symphony?

Dan Coleman:

Yeah, no, certainly, right. But I actually will tell you, the thing that surprised me was I came from Ashland and landed a job, I was really lucky at the Cleveland Orchestra, which is considered among the leading orchestras on the planet. And so I was really lucky to kind of have a spot in Severance Hall. And the chance to really grow and learn on that team. It had a great head of fundraising. When I was there some amazing colleagues who have become close friends and confidants to this day. And I was actually over the grants area, which was foundation and government fundraising. And I worked closely with so many members of the Cleveland Orchestra team, and really, really learned a lot and grew a lot there and had a lot of people who were not afraid to give critical feedback. And I just soaked all of it up. Sometimes it's hard and you want to go home and cry when you get that tough feedback. But at the end of the day, if you're open to it, if you're really listening, what people are telling you, you really can, you can really take something to heart and grow to the next level. And learn where your strengths are, learn your where your weaknesses are, and double down on your strengths and try to you know, shore up your your weaknesses even by a little bit. And that's kind of what I learned there was that that feedback is critical and I learned so much about fundraising best practices, and got to hear some amazing concerts and, and then, you know, quickly, I found an opportunity after that in Detroit Symphony, to join there and switch into individual giving and plan giving. So I went on to work with the Detroit Symphony team in Detroit, Michigan, and that was quite the opposite of Cleveland in some regards. Cleveland Orchestra is a well-known, well-established organization and orchestra. It's known for doing the classics so beautifully, and the organization top to bottom is just so excellent. And Detroit, also equally interesting, but a different sort of excellence comes out of there in that they're far more scrappier than much most other organizations because Detroit went through a whole host of issues over the last 40 or 50 years. And the orchestra even had to raid their endowment at one point right before I started there because of a number of financial issues. And so I was walking in on an orchestra that was sort of down on its luck in some regards, and coming back from that. And it was such a beautiful process to be a part of a resurging American city, resurging American orchestra. That was absolutely fabulous. The Halls' acoustics, they're pristine. Amazing supporters. And so it was just a wild time in life where you just leaned in and you wake up, and it's like years went by. And it was just a really special group of folks and great musicians, and it's a really great American city. So it was just a really lovely time to be a part of the resurgence in Detroit. I feel really blessed to have that, and as that time wound down I actually took my first director development job. Leaving the Detroit Symphony and went back to Cleveland, kind of moved around Lake Erie for a while, and came back to Cleveland and was the director of development at the Cleveland Institute of Music, which is one of the big conservatories in the music world. I had a great time sort of really furthering the work there with their president and the staff team and the amazing faculty that they have at CIM.

Jesse Butts:

So one thing I've been curious about, as you've been explaining these jobs, that you've been moving up in responsibility, you mentioned, you had done grant writing, then you are on the individual side. Can you talk a bit about skills acquisition? One of the things that I think intimidates some liberal arts, MAs, PhDs is that they don't have the the skills that maybe someone with an MBA might have, or someone with a lot of work experience. How did you learn grant writing and then other things? Was that, I mean, were you taking online courses? Were you learning on the job? Were you just Googling the hell out of it every evening? Like, what's that process of acquiring those types of skills that you haven't learned?

Dan Coleman:

Yeah. You know, that's a million dollar question right there. And it's taking me back and thinking about how I approached this, and what I'd recommend for people, and I remember being at times afraid. Like, I'm a trumpet player. And yeah, I had to write some college degree papers. And yes, I took a lot of amazing classes. Fortunately, at Capitol and at Indiana, I took a lot of classes outside of music. And so I had the opportunity to really sort of well round my education and see a bunch of opportunities to grow. And the arts are a reflection of humanity. And so because of that we really should think about ourselves as moldable, and growable, and capable people. And so it just took a while to convince myself to do some things. And once I got ready, I leaned in. And so some of it was, and maybe a lot of it was on the job training with supervisors who I talked to about mentoring me and helping me along, and they knew that that was the commitment, and they were willing to help an employee who was maybe missing some skill sets or didn't have all the skills needed in the role. But I find that in interviews, if you're clear with that with your supervisor, and you ask for that, as you're taking on a role, that you often get what you ask for, because people are like, Oh, yeah, I can take that on. I'm happy to mold you in the way I know how to do this fundraising or this particular career. And so, you know, one thing is make sure you're clear with others about what you do and do not know, what you can and cannot do in the moment that you accept something. And then be super open to growing. And that's the part that I think is a choice, right? Like it's it's an attitude that you can choose. And I think it's so important to come in ready to kind of grow and learn. And I'll never forget the first red line grant I received. I mean, I wanted to go home and cry and quit my job and call it a day, but...

Jesse Butts:

And redlining...Oh, sorry, meaning that someone has edited the contract extensively, right?

Dan Coleman:

Yeah. Yeah, it was basically, like I remember the, the voice inside the head going, You can't even write. You don't even know what a sentence is. How can you even have a job? You know, like, What a joke. And I remember all those sort of self-defeating messages. We all have that. I mean, I love when you go to somebody, and like, I'm just perfect, everything's great. I achieved all this greatness.

Jesse Butts:

The Instagram life.

Dan Coleman:

Right. And you're like, Yeah, you're, you're so perfect. We all have the exact same fears. We all have the exact same, you know, maybe different statements to you, or me or whatever. But we're all experiencing that. And so I love to demystify that. So for me, yeah, that voice went through my head. But I got up the next morning, and I tried again. And yes, I got out there, took some courses on grant management. I remember there was a great local, sort of, for-profit entity. And I think it was called Grants Plus. I can't remember the exact name, but it was a really great little program. I took a couple of seminars and learned some best practices there. My boss mentored me. And I took all the feedback across from many teams, and I spent a lot of time like just going up to people's desks. Now, of course, in COVID, you can't do that. But before COVID-19, I would go up to people's desks and just say, Hey, tell me everything you know. Like, tell me about this education program. Tell me about this. And I learned so much. And I'll tell you, if you're looking to get into arts management, one of the best first roles out of the gate is grants because it forces you to learn about every single thing that your organization does. Because at some point, you're going to write a government grant or a grant to a specific funder about every single thing in the building from a lighting project to enhance essential HVAC or lighting needs, to a grant about that cool education program, to a grant about the artistic product on stage or whatever. And you learn about everything, management, you learn about the strategic plan, the future, the institution, the challenges of the past. And you learn how to communicate that externally and effective ways to achieve philanthropic goals.

Jesse Butts:

Yeah.

Dan Coleman:

Also you learn budgeting, you learn how to create a program budget, how to monitor a budget. How to work with people out managing the expenditures of a grant. And so there's so much in that that I think sets you up with basic skills to do so much work in administration. I think that's one way to approach it. And then, of course, LinkedIn Learning has come so far in the last 10 years, and I can't, I can't advocate better for it. You can take courses on everything on there. And so I really highly recommend that. Looking into other courses that maybe a local community college or a college or an online school, there's all kinds of these quasi-colleges now where you can, like LinkedIn Learning, where you can learn skills. And talk to others. Reach out to people who are doing the work you think you want to do. And that was the other thing. I kept networking and learning from others about what did and didn't work for them. And I would ask just a million questions. Bring that sense of curiosity and bring that list of questions. And you know, take someone out for coffee or lunch or a drink, if that's appropriate, or a Zoom call, and ask away.

Jesse Butts:

What you said about being curious and asking people...So many people have this assumption that, oh, I'm bothering someone. They don't have time for me. And obviously, if you went to the CEO or an executive director of a nonprofit, that might very well be the case. But it has generally been my experience that if you ask people about what they're doing, what they like about it, they're pretty open to discussing that with you. And once you show that spark of interest, they're pretty interested in helping and, whether officially or not, some type of mentorship. Has that been your experience as well?

Dan Coleman:

Oh, absolutely. Yeah, you always meet the person who doesn't want to help, right? There's somebody who's so busy, or they just get so much communication that they can't reach out to you in that moment or respond. And so that does happen. A no comes from time to time. But quite frankly, I have almost always received a yes. When it comes to asking somebody questions about what they do, what they're passionate about, why they do what they do, what makes them happy at work, what doesn't. You know, tell me about ways you've learned to grow? I mean, you just come with a list of questions. And people are very eager to help people grow and learn. And I think most people believe in helping others. And so it's just, I can't recommend it higher to somebody else, especially if you don't know what you're doing. And if you're worried about sort of the cold turkey call, like, who wants to pick up a phone and talk to someone who they've never met? Right? Like, yes, a fundraiser is generally somebody who will do that. But most people don't necessarily love that, right? Like, it's a little bit daunting. And even fundraisers who are really skilled and experienced still fear cold turkey calls. Let's just get that on the table, we've all had to do it. And it's uncomfortable at times. And in this regard, like there's ways to do it. Go through your college. Ask around at your alumni organization. Look who's out there in the work you think is interesting to you and connect with that shared connection of, Hey, we went to Capital. Or hey, we went to Indiana together. That opens a lot of doors. Go to networking events that are around your alumni association so it feels a little less sleazy and more about the college you love. And most of my opportunities in life came from networking, and came from knowing somebody on the inside. Yeah, a couple of it was luck. But a lot of it was knowing somebody. They see a little bit of the promise in you, or the work ethic in you, or the results you can provide. And they start to believe in that brand. And that opportunity for this individual. And so, you know, don't be afraid. And also that network is something that is going to come in handy when you're in a job that you hope to get whatever that job is. And so I turn to my national network in the arts all the time with questions and challenges. And you need that. You need that network to really be there to help you gain perspective about what else is going on out there, learn about new things, share challenges, create that community, and also have that brain trust that extends beyond your organization. Because I'll tell you, as a leader of a major arts organization on the planet, the thing that I worry the most about is what I don't know. And when I'm making a decision, how soon am I going to learn whether the decision was the right one or the wrong one, and how soon we can pivot back on the track. Because those are the things that you know...you can control so much out there. But what you can't control is the reality of the future and what's out of your control. And so, you just kind of got to lean in and be willing to learn from every single thing you do.

Jesse Butts:

Getting back a little bit to more of the work timeline and what you're doing at Cleveland now at this point. Are you heads down work? I mean, is it pretty...is it consuming a lot of your life? Are you getting back into trumpet then? Are you incredibly career focused? Like, what's the feeling in that sense?

Dan Coleman:

Yeah, good question. Yeah, I'll kind of go back and give you the trumpet track. And so that was like, if you had like two tracks of life, like work and trumpet, it was like, for a couple of years, I was just focused on work and very much balancing and kind of doing my thing. And then as I pivoted later, in the work at the state of Ohio, that's when I started my trumpet playing and teaching, in those couple of years. And again, it sort of reignited it. And I was teaching a studio of trumpet players, usually like middle school, high school age at that point. And working with a couple of orchestras, part time and a couple of other sort of gig opportunities, freelance opportunities, and that was sort of running concurrent when I got the job at the Ashland Symphony. And it ran through my tenure at Ashland as the General Manager, partly because I needed the income and partly because I also loved to play the trumpet. And so as I left Ashland, I went on to Cleveland Orchestra, and it was probably, maybe a third or half of the way through my tenure at the Cleveland Orchestra, I actually bagged the trumpet again. I stopped teaching, I stopped taking gigs, because I realized that I was just working way too much. And I needed to...even though I love music so so much, I needed to focus on the administrative side at that time. I chose at least that, for me, was the path I chose at the time. And so when you get to the Cleveland Institute of Music, I very much am a heads-down worker. And something I just discovered about myself this year, and I'll just be very honest with all of you and your listeners is, I am prone to workaholism. And I'm one of those people who doesn't know how to always shut myself off. And I didn't know that. All these years, I look back and I'm like, Oh, my God, I shoulda saw the signs a decade ago. Because I get so into what I'm doing that I don't wake up and realize the effects it's having on me personally, those around me whom I care and love. And, also my body at the same time, and my mind. And so, I think life is an ongoing journey of learning, and course correction and changes. But through this process in the pandemic, being one of the greatest life lessons I've ever come across, was realizing that, yes, you need to be heads down sometimes at work, but not at the expense of your personal health and wellness.

Jesse Butts:

When you were at Cleveland, was that the last position before you joined the San Francisco Symphony?

Dan Coleman:

Yeah, at the Cleveland Institute of Music. Yeah. And then from there, to the San Francisco Symphony,

Jesse Butts:

Can you give us a little insight into how, if at all, the job interview application process is different when you get to that executive level?

Dan Coleman:

The interview processes and the exit processes in career get much longer, and much more in depth. It feels like a introspective experience on all sides, when you're looking at an executive opportunity. Yes, you have the cover letter and the resume and the standard sort of things that happen. But there becomes a different sense of discussion and a much longer period of discussion. Search firms get involved. You usually meet with multiple team members at the executive level, as well as throughout the organization. And then you're meeting with board members. And that can be board presentations to lunches to regular conversations to committee meetings. And it's, it's a very interesting process because you tend to meet a lot more people and you have a lot more opportunity to understand the dynamics of the organization, the culture, mainly the opportunity that's in front of you, and the challenges that brings along with it, and how you will feel about your skills and abilities to grow in that opportunity. And also benefit that opportunity both for this for that organization and yourself. And so it's just a much longer process. But the beauty of it is that I have learned along the way, and I encourage anybody who's looking at an opportunity is, look into everything around that organization, think about yourself and your skill sets and what you're hoping to accomplish, and come up with a boatload of questions for everybody you meet with and ask them as much questions as possible, because people will tell you what you need to know about the opportunity. And they'll give you the ups and downs and the ins and outs and really help guide you in the decision making process. Because I think everybody...you know, it's easy to look at an interview and say, Oh, it's about them picking the person for the role, and so I'm at a disadvantage. But you also have to remember the organizations, while they're trying to pick you, you're also responsible for picking the organization. And your happiness in a work situation is also on you to determine whether it's the right fit for you. And the only way you're going to do that is if you really understand what you're getting into, and I wish I would have known that when I was Dan Coleman of 2006. But I didn't. It took me a long time to realize that by asking questions and by really listening to what people were saying to me, taking copious notes, and then really reviewing and sitting with the information and processing it, that's when I started to really unlock the understanding of culture, and how I fit in. And you still might get it wrong, but you're more likely to find a really great fit for yourself.

Jesse Butts:

I'm asking you this because it's something I've experienced. So it's a completely self-indulgent question. But asking questions, taking copious notes, absorbing that information...have you personally had times where you didn't like the feedback? Or the information or the answer to questions, and you kind of had to wrestle with it for a while before accepting it? Is that something that you've experienced as you've grown in your roles?

Dan Coleman:

Absolutely, yeah. I mean, no one wants to hear that, when you look under the hood of the engine, there's a lot of problems in an opportunity. But the reality is, is every opportunity has its ups and downs. And so you've got to just get a good picture, in my opinion. And what I try to do, is just get a good picture of what I'm getting into. I want to know, The Good, the Bad, and The Ugly, so to speak, and really kind of just understand that. Because one of the greatest things that was asked of me in a recent meeting, after I'd taken a job was, Hey, how was this job compared to the expectation you had coming in compared to what it is in reality? And I said that, you know, this opportunity doesn't feel like someone's pulled the rug out from under me, it feels exactly like I expected it to be. And the only way that that can happen is if you really understand what you're getting into. And so, yeah, there were things you don't want to hear about when you ask those questions. You might find out about a huge challenge in sort of the goals, or you might find about huge organizational challenge that's going on, for example, in this world, where equity and inclusion is not only ever more important, but is the future and is so important, you might find that an organization you're interested in has no DEI efforts and isn't moving forward on diversity, equity, and inclusion and might just be wrestling around the edges when the reality is the world is eager and hungry for us to figure this out. And to really make the world an equitable and inclusive place. And you might find that out. And that might be a deal breaker for you. That might be a heartbreak deal breaker that yeah, you have to walk away from the job, but that's okay. Like, it's okay if you get into an opportunity and it's not the right one for you. Or you might find out in that process, Wow, that's really tough. But I think I can come in and and make that better or play a role in helping the organization forward. And I want that challenge. And so I think that's the part that helps. And I, personally, as a leader, because other leaders have done this for me, I spend time with, especially my closest reports, talking through in interview processes the challenges. Because I really want them to see the picture of how I'm seeing the opportunities and challenges, how others are seeing the opportunities and challenges. Because you want that person to come in and not be surprised about things.

Jesse Butts:

And just just for the listeners here, when Dan was mentioning things earlier about boards of directors, and now about diversity, equity and inclusion...if you look up the episode with a guest named Nikki McCord, she is a board governance consultant and a DEI consultant. So if you're curious about any of those things, I highly encourage you to check out that episode. But Dan, back to what you were saying. You mentioned something about be interested in that challenge. How do you decide, That's worth it, I'm willing. And maybe you don't view it as a sacrifice, so I hate to put words in your mouth, but, I'm willing to sacrifice my evenings or work longer days or my weekends to go through this process? How did you come to that conclusion that it was the right decision for you?

Dan Coleman:

Yeah, a lot of it was my eagerness and hunger and hunger to grow. I was very intent on leadership and growth in my life, and maybe to a fault too much. And I think that's the beauty of life, is you get to learn as you go. And then you get to pivot. If something's not working, guess what, you're in control. No one's forcing you to do anything. You might have realities, like bills that you have to figure out. But the reality is, is you can always alter your reality. Maybe it's small steps, and maybe sometimes it's big, dramatic steps. And so in these cases, I was looking to grow. I was looking for a challenge and I was looking to be taken seriously and afforded that responsibility because I'm the person in my life who's known for taking responsibility and meeting the challenge or meeting the goal. And so, for me, it was that eagerness to grow, to lead a large team, to really move forward. And I will tell you that what has come back to me has been some amazing moments of success, but also amazing moments of challenge that have almost broken me apart. Because it's so much to learn, so much to do, that, at times, it can be overwhelming, and it can be a lot. And so I think, you definitely want to know yourself, I think that's the lesson I've learned a lot is how better listen to myself and know myself. But also I wouldn't trade my experiences for anything, because they've been, I've been so lucky. And they have been such great teachers, and they've opened doors to things that I never would have imagined I would be teaching a seminar on how to fundraise. And I have, and I never would have imagined that I'd be working at San Francisco Symphony as the head of fundraising. And now I am. And so I think what you can do is really lean in and...and a little secret about fundraising is there is a lot of turnover in the fundraising field. And a little secret about performing arts, there is a lot of turnover in the fundraising side of performing arts in most of the country. And so if you really want to grow, and you want to grow quickly, and you're good at hitting your goals and results, and you're willing to learn, you can grow very fast in a fundraising role at a small, mid, or large organization. And so I kind of was lucky that I fell into that work. And then there was just sort of an unending opportunity to grow, because the need for cash never seems to end in our business.

Jesse Butts:

So we got, we got two hot tips of the day. The Work Seminar hot tips of the day. One you mentioned earlier, grants is a great place to grow and learn everything in the arts. And number two, is if you can stick with fundraising, you'll probably grow. You'll probably accelerate in your career pretty quickly.

Dan Coleman:

Yes, absolutely.

Jesse Butts:

Got it.

Dan Coleman:

And most people won't tell you that, because they want you to think their team is solid and set. And there's no turnover. But we just finished filling out our team a couple of months ago, and we already have two more openings. So it's just, it's just the nature of the gig.

Jesse Butts:

Typically, with my guests, I like to ask about how grad school relates to what they do now. And obviously, you've remained in performing arts. So there's a pretty clear tie in that regard. But is there anything from your grad school experience that you think has really prepared you for this administrative side of the performing arts world?

Dan Coleman:

Definitely. I would say one of the cool things about my grad degree that's not listed on my LinkedIn, and you have to kind of know me to know this, but I took an outside area in Gender Studies at the Kinsey Institute for Sex, Gender, and Reproduction at Bloomington, Indiana. And so it was really great because I got a chance to take some courses in some really cool areas and expand my understanding and knowledge. And so that has come to help me, right? And equity, inclusion, and working with so many different folks that come together through an organization. And I love that because that part has been awesome. But the skill sets of learning how to book a gig and get people set up to play and all of that stuff, that's really a light version of what you're doing with a massive performing arts organization. And I also learned a number of other things at Indiana University. In terms of relationship development, putting people first, really, really building those relationships that grow into these amazing connections for both sides, it's beneficial. Whether it's beneficial or not, it's beneficial. And so I think, those days were very pivotal for really seeing my leadership side start to develop and start to... get a sense of what I could do and who I was. And I think that's, that's always something you'll take for the rest of your life forward, from my perspective.

Jesse Butts:

Have you always had...I mean, in this conversation, you clearly have a very positive attitude. And is it a skill that you learned to find things to love in what you're doing? Or is that something that is naturally part of you, do you think?

Dan Coleman:

Wow, yeah, that interesting. You know, I think I'm definitely on the positive side of life. I definitely like to gear towards that, optimism. I think over time, I become cautiously optimistic about many things, because I've learned that life always throws you surprises. But I think it is a mindset. One of the things that really altered my life was meditation, and I really leaned in about...it would be 2018. So it's been almost three full years where I've meditated every single day of my life. And it really changed my perspective, because it started to help me silence my mind and sort of build a sense of groundedness and connectedness and then start to kind of understand myself differently. And so that has helped me find joy even in the hard moments. Because I'll tell you, the hard moments of life never stop happening. They're always going to be there as much as the joyful moments are. And so what I find is that I'm more likely to say thank you. It's a really bizarre thing. But it's really true. There's a gratitude inside me that comes out. Like a terrible thing happens, and it's like somebody you love at work has somebody maybe they leave and they're taking a new opportunity. And it's like, wow this sucks. I'm heartbroken. I want this person to stay, they';re such a great team member. And then you stop, and it's like, Well, thank you for the chance to serve with you, and the chance to learn from you and work with you and understand new things with you. And also, I'm really excited for your next steps. And you see things from a whole different perspective. When you step back, and you find that sort of sense of gratitude, at least I have, I think for everybody, it's different. And I encourage you to find what works for you. Because if anything I've learned, it's ask a bunch of questions. Listen, listen, listen, listen, listen. And then, finally, navigate it and figure out what works for you and throw the rest out. You will not offend me, if you say, The one thing out of this entire conversation was when you said the word Duh, that was impactful for me. And it's like, Heck yeah, we got somewhere on that front. But if you tell me the rest of this conversation was a waste of your time, from a listeners perspective, I would not be hurt because the reality is, it's about finding what's going to work for you, what's going to resonate with you, and what's going to get you to where you're hoping to go. And yeah, so I do think, positive attitude is for some people natural, to answer your question. But I also think it's also a learned behavior. And you can you can learn to look at things from a very different perspective. And really one of the most powerful things that was said to me, I believe it was Lynne Twist of the Soul is Money group. And she said something like, It was about not looking at something like, Why is this happening to me? But asking it like, Why is this happening for me? And when you reframe it like that, it's like, suddenly you're looking at it, like, maybe this path you're on seems to be so wild, right? Like you wanted to go into performing arts, and maybe you ended up like I did in the government, and you're finding your way back to performing arts. Or maybe you're in performing arts and you're going somewhere else, or whatever, there becomes a thing where you start to look at the people in your life, the opportunities that are in front of you, the challenges are in front of you, and you look at them as things that help you to the next step. And that doesn't mean you can't be upset, depressed, or frustrated or challenged by them, or even defeated in the moment. But it means that you're looking at it as that thing that's helping you go on to what's next. And it's ..not to quote Miley Cyrus, but to quote Miley Cyrus, it's about the climb, it's about the journey, it's about...The destination is one thing, but, guess what, when you get there, you're already on your way to the next thing. And so you might as well enjoy where you're going.

Jesse Butts:

So I don't know which is funnier. That you quoted Miley Cyrus, or I legitimately have no idea what Miley Cyrus song that is. So are you personally playing trumpet now? Are you teaching lessons? What role is that playing in your in your life?

Dan Coleman:

So not at all. Yeah, I sold off my trumpet, except for one, and it's sitting in the case on a shelf.

Jesse Butts:

Do you miss that at all? Do you see revisiting that at some point in your life?

Dan Coleman:

It's possible. Yeah, I don't know what that looks like. Because music and art making is important to me. I actually found that I also like to color and draw. And so I don't have it in front of me, but I ..basically did a color pencil of the Golden Gate Bridge that's not a stick figure. So I draw that as a success on my end, but...

Jesse Butts:

There ya go.

Dan Coleman:

But I think it's knowing that about yourself is important. One of the great tools that I've had a fortune of experience is these work assessments that can be done. Like your work behavior, work personality assessments. And there's many like the DISC, or there is the famous Myers Briggs. And there's also the Birkman, which is one of the old ones. And they tell you things about you. And so one of the things I've learned is I love creating and being a problem solver and being a sort of an art maker. And so that's a piece of me no matter what I do. So it might be something as simple as making an amazing meal for friends and family or myself. That's an art in and of itself. But there's this creative piece, and with trumpet I don't yet know what's going to happen in the future. But I imagine it'll have some role to do with my future.

Jesse Butts:

So for someone who is in grad school, or out of grad school and thinking, you know, what I'm studying, it might not be what I want to do...What question should someone in that situation be asking themselves?

Dan Coleman:

Hmm, yeah, that's a good moment to be in because I've been there. I would say, start by asking yourself little questions, right? We can ask the big question like, What's the meaning of life, right? If anyone has the answer to that, we'll all pay them a million dollars if we had it. But the reality is, start smaller and start asking yourself these simple questions like, What activities am I doing in my current work at grad school, with my friends in life, that excite me? And turn to some resources. In fact, one of the great things that I actually do is this book called Designing Your Life. And it's a whole program by Bill Burnett and Dave Evans. And it's called basically, Designing Your Life, How to Build a Well-Lived Joyful Life. And so the whole point is to just kind of pluck out what's working and figure out what you like, what you don't like, and sort of navigate from there in really helpful exercises. And that's everything from personal relationships, from the romantic to the friendships, family, to your work, and figure out how to build that balance that works for you. And guess what? It's going to change all the time. And I think, when I was in their shoes, I remember the panic of like, What am I going to? Do I have bills to pay? What skill sets do I have that work? So just start small start each day looking at what's working for you, what you like, why do you get out of bed tomorrow? What today are you interested in doing and why? And ask yourself some questions about that. Log those answers, talk to others, reach out to a professor or two, or three or four, and talk to them a little bit. And talk to your friends and talk to your family. And also, it's okay to take a job to see if it's going to work, and then find out what's working in that and kind of build off of that too. Because you might fall into work like I did, and find out that, you know, yes, I'm a naturally decent community organizer, but maybe that's not really the right, ultimate skill set or place for me to be. And that's okay, too. And so, what's the great book? Goldilocks and the Three Bears. Figure out what size bowl of porridge that works for you, or what bed is right for you. And that's okay.

Jesse Butts:

In that situation, where you have bills...you're always going to have bills. And if that's the only reason you consider a job, you know, probably not the best criterion for finding work.

Dan Coleman:

Absolutely.

Jesse Butts:

So just to wrap up, I mean, you've you've given so much great advice, you've shared your story, anything else you recommend somebody take a look at, you know, regardless of its medium that might help them on thisjourney?

Dan Coleman:

Yeah, I would say you are probably, you yourself, are probably one of the most important resources in this work. So the more you can listen to yourself, and figure out how to listen to yourself, the better. And that's, that's really easy to say, right? But it's really hard work. And you can read, there's great quotes about people saying, like going in my mind and going in my soul and trying to figure out what I like and don't like, and what I want to do and don't do, is like going to a really terrible neighborhood, and I feel unsafe or whatever. Yes, that can be part of the journey. But you know, the more you listen to yourself, the better, One. And then Two, I'm a huge fan of Brene Brown. If you haven't looked up Brene's work, she's a fear and shame researcher. She's got books like Rising Strong, Daring Greatly, Dare to Lead. I've read every book, basically, she's ever written, and I'm a big fan. I listen to her podcasts. And you hear others' journeys, and you learn from them. And sometimes they're exploring very important discussions like racial equity. And then they're dealing with sort of leadership challenges at work. But one of the coolest things about her work is that you hear this raw, authentic side of the people she's talking with, and the leaders and their journeys. And I think that's so helpful. And listen to others. Learn from the people around you. I think to me, beyond any book, tape, movie, or whatever you can look at in life, and course you can take...Getting to know others and getting to talk with them and listening to what they're doing and what what's working for them. And that could be a very helpful thing for you as you try to figure out your future. And ultimately, you're going to experience some fear in the journey. And for me, one of the greatest resources is just letting go of that fear, and just leaning into it and saying, I might fail, but I'm going to go and try anyways. The only way you're going to ultimately find yourself is, I think, when you give in to these opportunities and you sort of let go of anything that's holding you back, and you just kind of get out there. And I'm trying to think if there's anything else I'd point people to. I mean, LinkedIn Learning is fabulous. There's so many great courses on there that, it's worth it to get in there, get the subscription and just take as many videos as you can, especially if you're not employed right now. You know, take advantage of that downtime. And enjoy it. I mean, last piece of advice, I would say for anybody out there is find the enjoyment even in it even when it's difficult or uncomfortable. Actually, being uncomfortable means you're learning and it means you're growing. So uncomfortability is like, that's really where you should set your compass to when you're trying out something new, or you're looking at a new field is, the more uncomfortable you are, the more you're actually growing and learning because you're in a space that you've never navigated before.

Jesse Butts:

It's such a great place to end on. Thank you, Dan. It's such a great conversation.

Dan Coleman:

Thanks for having me, Jesse. And to all of you out there, good luck. And take that risk that you're thinking about. It'll be worth it in the end.

Jesse Butts:

Thanks for listening to this episode of The Work Seminar. If you like what you've heard, please take a minute to rate the show on your favorite podcast app. Know someone who'd be a great Work Seminar guest? Or have a suggestion or two for the show? You can reach me at Jesse@theworkseminar.com, or @TheWorkSeminar on social. And special thanks, as always, to Jon Camp for the music and Isabel Patino for the cover art and design. Until next time, never cease from exploration.