Volume 25/1996-1997 contents | Duke Policy News Online | Sanford Institute

The program gives students more than just performances.


Learning about leadership in the arts

"Look at what choreographers and directors are able to do. They achieve excellence with slim financial resources while organizing demanding, and often highly individual, professionals. That's solving leadership problems, but I don't see a lot of people in leadership studies talking about how they do that," says Bruce Payne, lecturer in ethics and leadership in the Sanford Institute's Hart Leadership Program.

Payne was explaining this situation to a woman with whom he'd struck up a conversation while in New York at a ballet. "We talked in the lobby during intermission," Payne says. "And she said, 'I think you're right and we're going to help you.'"

The "we" turned out to be the Metropolitan Opera because the woman Payne was speaking with, though he didn't know it at the time, was Sarah Billinghurst, the number-two person in the Met's organization.

"Just like that, in the lobby of the Met, the Leadership and the Arts program was born," Payne says.

Now in its second year, the program is a Duke semester in New York City in which students take two courses taught by Payne, "Policy, Philanthropy, and the Arts" and "Leadership and Quality in the Arts." They also take a course about opera taught by Robert Bucker, director of education at the Metropolitan Opera Guild and an adjunct member of Duke's music faculty. Students take a fourth course in any field they choose.

As part of the courses, students see plays, dances, operas and concerts-a total of more than 45 such performances last spring. They also spend lots of time in museums, and visiting studios of painters and sculptors.

The program gives students more than just performances, Payne says. "Last year, we went to rehearsals for a dance work and talked with the dancers there, and then we went to the opening-night performance, manning the T-shirt and coat-check stands, and then met donors at the reception following the performance."

Payne says his hope for the semester is that it is the beginning of a life-long appreciation of and interest in the performing arts. "These are not art students in the sense that they are planning a career in the arts," Payne says. "But with repeated exposure and personal contact, they may become art lovers and supporters in addition to learning valuable leadership skills. And they may find that, as they get older, the arts make their lives richer and, sometimes, easier to bear."

-Michael Chitwood

Volume 25/1996-1997 contents | Duke Policy News Online | Sanford Institute