The Dayton Performing Arts Alliance has a lot going on right now. They have a full list of shows and sell tickets for $ 5 to ballet, opera, and philharmonic performances. They also have a new President and CEO, Patrick J. Nugent. He spoke with Jason Reynolds of WYSO about his plans for the allianceâ¦.
NUGENT: I believe deep in my being that the arts are for everyone, and I want to put Dayton on the map as a place where it truly is. So the point of the $ 5 tickets is, first of all, that we have a lot of seats in our auditorium, which in my opinion is an asset, not a handicap. And so we want to market these $ 5 tickets to carefully selected groups in our community that we want to feel welcomed and included. As in Europe. You know, if you go to any big European city, you can go to the symphony, the ballet, the opera for five dollars and get seats because the arts are for everyone and we want everything. the world feels that it can come to our performances without barriers.
REYNOLD: Another of your goals is to raise awareness, especially in underserved communities and through education. How do you do that at a time like this when performance is so complicated by the pandemic?
NUGENT: Well our job is to help anyone we can, no matter where they’re from, fall in love with these art forms. This is what we do. And so we do it in any way we can. Our education programs, which serve 75,000 children in 14 counties, are the front line in helping people fall in love with these art forms. And so, in a selfish sense, they are our next generation of audiences and performers.
But beyond that, when a student learns to play a musical instrument or gets involved in dancing, it opens up new neural pathways that are not otherwise opened up by any type of activity except learning. of a foreign language, and those neural pathways are then available for other things. . And when you have a large number of kids in a school learning instruments and dancing, it improves the performance of the school.
REYNOLD: What is a concrete example of this? What program can you give us an overview? Like where the rubber hits the road?
NUGENT: We have a ballet school. We have a whole system of youth orchestras. And we have a program called Cue the Music, which currently serves an elementary school on the East Side of Dayton, Ruskin, where a large number of children play or learn to play classical instruments and perform in ensembles large and small. . And then these kids tend to continue and do very well in high school. They go to places like Stivers, the Performing Arts Academy in Dayton, and the kids who go to Stivers overwhelmingly go to college.
So we would like Cue the Music to be released to other communities as well. It’s part of an international system called El Sistema that works with disadvantaged, underserved, and underfunded children in exactly this way to improve their academic performance and get them to college.
REYNOLD: What worries you about the future of DPA or the arts in Dayton? If something work-related keeps you awake at night, what is it?
NUGENT: It’s that not many people in the community fall in love with these art forms, and there is so much potential here to do so.
It’s true that rebuilding from COVID is likely going to be a three-year process. It’s going to take a while for our audience to regain their full strength, and we have to make bets on how quickly they’ll come back because we’re budgeting based in part on ticket sales. Even if, as in all the performing arts, the preponderance of our funding comes from philanthropy. It comes from donors. For every dollar you pay to sit at one of our shows, donors pay two or even three dollars to help you sit there. And so philanthropy is more important than ever, and a big part of my job is reaching out to donors and inspiring their support for what we do.
REYNOLD: What attracted you to Dayton and to the DPA and its model in particular?
NUGENT: Well the first thing I have to say is I came here because my wife got her dream job here, but I really love the job of running a business like this. I like the vision and the strategy. I really enjoy fundraising.
And the Dayton Performing Arts Alliance is a model that does not exist anywhere else in the country where we have combined ballet, opera and philharmonic orchestra into one organization, one integrated organization working together with a common goal that really inspired me. , and I really feel privileged to be a part of it.