Teamwork was rewarded last week at the Music Academy of the West as Scott Reed, the current VP there for Institutional Advancement, was named to succeed NancyBell Coe when she retires at the end of this summer’s season. It’s been fourteen years since Reed, then a senior at UCSB, first entered the organization as an unpaid intern. Since then, along with a stint in the Development Office at the San Francisco Opera, Reed has held a series of positions at the Music Academy, beginning as Coordinator of Alumni and rising through the development ranks until becoming the leader of fundraising in September 2005. His achievements in this role are what propelled him to the top of the heap when the Academy conducted a comprehensive national search after NancyBell Coe announced that she would retire at the end of this year. Under Coe, Reed and his team have raised more than $25 million, increased the Academy’s annual fund by 32 percent in a period of unprecedented economic challenges, completed one major capital campaign for Hahn Hall, and initiated a second, the $11-million campaign to fund the Luria Education Center, which will begin construction in August on the Academy’s Miraflores campus.
As I spoke with Scott Reed at his office last week, I was impressed by a quality that he shares with outgoing leader NancyBell Coe—his terrific ability to listen closely and focus on the person he is talking to. Even on a busy day with lots of coming and going, Reed was fully present for everyone, whether a reporter or a major donor dropping by to say thank you for a concert dedication.
When and how did you first start thinking about taking this position?
After NancyBell Coe announced her retirement I took some time to really think about the MAW and if this was a viable opportunity and whether I was the right person to be taking this organization to a higher level. It was daunting, because we’re at a high level already. But after some reflection, I decided that my experience here and elsewhere and what I have to offer in terms of a vision for the future of the Academy were equal to the position. So I came back and I told the board that I would like to be considered seriously, right alongside the people they found from the national search, and with no special treatment as an inside candidate. They explained the process to me, and that’s how this began.
It’s rare that a former intern would go on to lead an organization like this. What was it like being an internal candidate for the top job?
To be a successful internal candidate, the key challenge that you have to face is that people already see you in a certain role, and you have to be able to inspire them to see you as capable of being more than that. And, while my success here as Vice President for Institutional Advancement was one of the things I had going for me, it was also something that I had to transcend in order to be seen by the committee in this new role.
What has your experience with the Academy’s board been like?
I have a great relationship with the board, and that’s important, because the MAW is a relationship-driven organization. We have been more resilient than many other organizations in this economic climate because of this emphasis in our culture. The board knows me professionally, they know me personally, and most importantly, they know me from experience, by participating with me in the great things that we have accomplished together in the last five years. So they knew my track record not just from looking at it, but instead from being involved, and I think that is what carried it for me, that familiarity of having worked together as a team.
Did the path you took to the position have an effect on the way your appointment was received?
Yes, it did. As a result, it has been an emotional decision around here, because it does represent a kind of validation of what we’ve all just been through together. This is true even outside the immediate community. I have gotten so many messages of congratulations since the announcement, and they are from all over the country, from Carnegie Hall and from the Aspen Festival and from all kinds of other places, and the thing that I have gotten from this outpouring of feeling is that the decision is not just about me. It’s great for me, but it’s also great for the Music Academy, because it’s a validation of the program here, and of what it can do for people. I come from a place where I can really appreciate the amazing opportunity that I have because I benefited from outreach, and I worked my way up through the ranks starting out as an intern, and that’s just a great message to send because it’s so true to our mission and our core beliefs as an organization. I can now look one of our Fellows in the eye and say, “hard work pays off” with real personal conviction.
What are your plans for the future of the Music Academy?
The first thing is the expansion of our year-round program. We will always maintain our priorities in terms of the summer being our most important time because that’s our identity, and that’s how we are known to the world, but there are ways in which we can do more in the rest of the year to leverage that. And let me say right away that this is not necessarily about doing more during those months here in Santa Barbara, because we are very sensitive to the existing organizations that we have here and the offerings that they make. We are not going to compete with the opera or the symphony or the ballet or Arts and Lectures or Camerata Pacifica. But as someone who has spent a lot of time strengthening the alumni program of the Music Academy, the opportunity that I do see is during the rest of the year, because that is when our alumni are all over the country, and all over the world, and they are already having a major impact on music. We just want to be more involved with that aspect of our impact as an institution, and we think there are lots of interesting ways that we can make that happen. We have opportunities with other communities to work with their orchestras and their opera companies, and these efforts will raise the Academy’s profile and that of our alumni.
Hahn Hall has been a great benefit to other organizations as well. Is that part of how you look at the Music Academy’s current mission?
When the Music Academy started on these large capital campaigns, we had to look carefully at what the impact would be on the community, and that was an important part of our planning process, the desire to maximize the benefits to others in Santa Barbara of the facilities that we planned and built. Now we have thirty organizations that use our campus in the non-summer months, and we have eight private studios here that serve 125 kids on a weekly basis, and that’s all not to mention the fact that we are bringing the Met in HD to the community as well. A lot of that was NancyBell, who was really brilliant about this aspect of things.
How important are the new facilities to the musicians?
I am a firm believer in the idea that rehearsing in a first-class venue improves the quality of your experience as a musician and as a result it improves the quality of your performance. We have always had the talent, but now they are getting the venues that leverage that to the fullest extent. On the other hand, we have tried to not be too building-oriented, because we feel like the talent comes first. No matter what we do with buildings and venues it will never be the equal of what they bring to the situation, but the buildings are still important.
You are also a singer. Can you tell me about your start in music?
They could not find a Hansel. In my grade school in Tucson, there was an outreach program. Not a full music program, just an outreach program that was really one woman, a wonderful voice teacher. She came to the school to put on Hansel and Gretel. It was supposed to be only for 5th and 6th graders, but they couldn’t find anyone for Hansel, and I was in the 4th grade, and they auditioned me, and after I was cast, the woman who directed it began to give me private lessons. So that was my start, and it was something that stayed with me. I was the first person in my family to go to college, and I really felt lucky to be there. I was on the swim team at UCSB, and I was also a music major, and there couldn’t have been a better place for someone with those two interests than UCSB. When I was about to graduate in 1996, I had heard about the MAW, and I decided that I wanted to do an internship there, because I wanted to find out if working in the music industry would be a good fit for me. So I started out driving over from Isla Vista for 15 hours a week, and the first thing they asked me to do was to organize the alumni. At that time they had never had an intern in the non-summer months, but they took a chance and it worked out.