Interview with Lauren Stroman: Development Officer of Sarasota Ballet

As a passionate dance student, I am always looking for ways in which I may remain in the dance world even if I am unable to have a performance career. This has lead me to research many options, one of which would be pursuing an arts administrative position. Interested to learn more, I reached out to the Developmental Officer of Sarasota Ballet, Lauren Stroman, who graciously shared her experience in this field in this interview.

Lauren Stroman is entering her second season as Development Officer for The Sarasota Ballet in Sarasota, Florida. She is thrilled to be continuing her career in such an arts-loving city as Sarasota. Prior to joining the ballet, she worked in the events department for Asolo Repertory Theatre, also located in Sarasota. Hailing from the DC metro area, Ms. Stroman holds a Bachelor of Music in Vocal Performance from Shenandoah Conservatory. While at Shenandoah Conservatory, Ms. Stroman completed a summer-long residency program in Freiberg, Germany, where she was a featured soloist with the Middle Saxon Philharmonic Orchestra. Following the completion of her undergraduate studies, Ms. Stroman went on to earn her Master of Science in Performing Arts Leadership and Management, also from Shenandoah Conservatory. In addition to her background in voice and opera, Ms. Stroman is an avid supporter of all performing arts and arts education, but dance holds a special place in her heart. Ms. Stroman is incredibly grateful to have the opportunity to work with The Sarasota Ballet, and looks forward to another exciting season!

1.) Were you involved in ballet as a child? If so, in what capacity?

Yes, I took ballet as well as tap and jazz from the age of 3 until I was about 16. I also took a few dance classes in college.

2.) What does the job title of Development Officer of Sarasota Ballet entail?

As Development Officer, my main duty is to assist in raising funds for the Company. As a non-profit organization, The Sarasota Ballet attains funding through government and non-government grants, corporate and organizational sponsors, legacy gifts, and individual contributions.

3.)What does you job look like from a day-to-day standpoint?

My duties vary from day-to-day. I work a lot with our CRM database, overseeing gift entry and processing, and tracking interactions with our donors. I regularly run and analyze financial and donor retention reports for our Development Director and Executive Director. I also assist with event planning, writing grants, and creating fundraising campaign materials.

4.) What education is required to reach the position you are at?

My undergraduate degree is in classical voice. I studied at Shenandoah Conservatory where I was surrounded and continuously inspired by other performing artists- dancers, actors, and musicians. About halfway through my collegiate career, I decided to join Shenandoah’s accelerated Masters Program to earn my degree in Arts Administration. Although I have found having a Masters in Arts Administration to be very beneficial, I wouldn’t say it is necessarily required to obtain a Development Officer position.

5.) What experience/education would you recommend getting in order to obtain a position as a Development Officer of an arts organization?

I would highly recommend completing a 4-year undergraduate program. Aside from my core classes at college, I learned so many invaluable life lessons, and acquired lifelong mentors and friends. Plus, in the professional world, holding a Bachelors Degree almost always gives you a competitive advantage over other candidates. On the other hand, I believe that many performing artists are already equipped with the skillsets needed to work in, and even manage, an arts organization. Whether you’ve received pre-professional training in dance, music, or theatre, chances are you are already familiar with all of the behind-the-scenes work that goes into putting on a show.

6.) What drew you to an administrative position in an arts field as opposed to a different field? What is the most rewarding part of being in an arts field?

About halfway through my undergraduate career, I decided pursuing a career as a performer was not going to be feasible for me. I wanted a job that I was passionate about, but I also wanted a job that was sustainable. For me, working in an arts field is the next best thing to performing. The most rewarding part of being in an arts field is that I get to be an advocate for the arts and share my passion with others. The performances are a bonus.

7.)What advice would you offer to a student aspiring to a career similar to yours?

Find a good mentor- someone who you look up to, who is willing to give career advice and help you with job applications.

8.)What was the most valuable experience you have had in your career?

Being so early in my career, I would say the apprenticeship that brought me to Sarasota was definitely the most valuable experience I have had so far. My apprenticeship was difficult, but it taught me how to be meticulous with my work and it certainly helped me make connections that got me to where I am today.

9.) How did you end up getting hired at Sarasota Ballet? What was your experience like prior to Sarasota Ballet?

After finishing my Graduate Degree, I applied for arts jobs all over the country. I ended up landing an apprenticeship with Asolo Repertory Theatre, also in Sarasota. I started as an Events Apprentice and worked my way to Events Assistant. I knew a few employees at The Sarasota Ballet, so when the position for Events Coordinator opened up, I interviewed and got the job. After expressing my interest in working in Development, I moved up to Development Officer a few months later.

10.)What is the best/worst part of your job?

The best part of my job is being able to not only watch the breathtaking performances our Company puts on stage, but also witness all of the hard work that goes into these performances. I wouldn’t say there is a “worst part” of my job. The most challenging part of my job is the long hours that I have to commit when we get into our season, especially November-February. It gets very overwhelming with so many performances and events back to back.

11.)What can those aspiring to this career do to proactively prepare themselves?

If you already have a background in the arts, take business and accounting classes. If you have a background in business, take some arts classes. Make yourself as well-rounded as possible!

Thank you for checking out Lauren Stroman's journey through dance! If you enjoyed this interview with Ms. Stroman, be sure to check out the other interviews I've conducted under the Interviews tab at the top of my home page! 

#interview #ballet #business #DevelopmentalDirector #SarasotaBallet #AlternativeCareers #ArtsAdministration

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