Oberlin Senior Daniel Nitsch Doubles as Full-Time Yellow Barn Administrator
Daniel Nitsch, working on the porch at Yellow Barn in Vermont
I have run a series of feature articles on alumni since starting this blog in the Fall of 2013. But the unusual success and early career trajectory of guitar studio senior, Daniel Nitsch, seems to require attention now, before he graduates. I asked him to recount how he found his current path. He writes:
"The guitar came to me in a typical scenario of teenage infatuation for rock and roll. Initially desiring a Rickenbacker to mimic the tunes of Paul McCartney, my parents (being classical musicians) highlighted my 15th Christmas with a
guitar. I was immediately taken by the versatility of the instrument: it enabled me to explore my classical background while still having a legitimate shot at the pop repertoire.
After hearing and playing for Steve at the Mannes Guitar Seminar in New York, I immediately knew I wanted to study with him in Oberlin. During my first year at conservatory, in an effort to help pay for my education there, I began to work for the Dean's Office, the Office of Admissions, for Library Reference, and for the Artist Recital Series. I also studied orchestral conducting, eventually accepting the position of assistant conductor of the Northern Ohio Youth Orchestra. These various positions launched my discovery of the world of administration, and offered an insight into the inner workings of a music institution.
Dan during his Junior Recital at Oberlin
The association between extensive training in music and success in an administrative environment are readily discernible. Proficiency in music requires highly advanced problem solving techniques, attention to the most minute details, an ability to simultaneously attend to macro and micro aspects of a project, and unwavering perseverance in learning and perfecting a craft, all while injecting inspiration and creativity in careful balance with a range of pragmatic necessities. Musicians are naturally subjected to these leadership skills in their development; further, through constant rehearsals and performances, they get excellent training in everyday communication skills.
Dan playing chamber music at Oberlin
Not long into my second year at Oberlin, I realized that I did not get the "buzz" that many of my peers experienced when performing. In fact, I found I was more satisfied and excited when helping others perform than from doing so myself. I was especially intrigued by the human aspect of administration; efficiently utilizing human resources to solve the puzzles of organization while at the same time enhancing the project. The characteristic makeup of the administration behind any performing arts entity has enormous potential to influence (for better or worse) the success of the organization. Consequently, it is imperative to build a team in which each member is mutually advantageous.
Dan plays chamber music at Oberlin
Armed with this new understanding, I began to seek external opportunities in arts administration. In January 2013, I traveled to San Francisco to work as an intern for the American Bach Soloists, a Baroque performance ensemble. The following summer I returned to California to serve as the operations intern for the chamber music festival Music@Menlo. Back at Oberlin, I looked for ways to formalize this interest in management. I applied for an "individual major" in Arts Administration, and was granted permission to pursue the degree throughout my final two years at Oberlin. This proposed degree program led to additional studies in economics, orchestral conducting, rhetoric, and computer science.
Dan conducts the Northern Ohio Youth Orchestra
In the summer of 2014, I was invited to intern at Yellow Barn, an international chamber music festival held in the mountains of southern Vermont. At the conclusion of the summer, Yellow Barn offered me the full-time position of Operations Manager. The job would require significant travel for auditions, residencies, and summers in Vermont. The year-round base would be in Baltimore, close to Yellow Barn artistic director and Peabody faculty, Seth Knopp. However, at the time, my performance degree at Oberlin required one more year of classes.
Luckily, the directors at Yellow Barn were flexible enough to allow me to finish my time at Oberlin while simultaneously beginning my career with the organization. Assisted by numerous airplanes and video conferences, I was able to manage both my academic responsibilities and my new job.
Dan with Yellow Barn musicians after concert
In coming years, I hope to continue with Yellow Barn, eventually pursuing a Masters of Business Administration (MBA) degree. Looking back, I credit most of my advancements to a combination of being in the “right place at the right time,” and having the skill sets to create a meaningful experience from these otherwise ephemeral windows of opportunity. This approach requires a great degree of flexibility and broad base of understanding. Maintaining eligibility for a variety of career paths has consistently driven my course of study, and has allowed me to adapt to both the market’s needs and my personal motivations and goals, both of which are constantly in motion. I will always consider myself a musician, and hope to continue performing in the future. However, I am confident that my innate appetite for creativity and innovation can be satisfied by the countless avenues available when providing opportunities for fellow artists."
It amazed me, throughout Dan's senior year, that he was literally working full time (in other cities), while keeping up all his work at the college. His preparation for his senior recital and his obligations in chamber music never suffered; in fact he was doing his finest playing of his college career. Dan is a quiet, thoughtful and respectful guy; it would not be obvious that he is an ambitious powerhouse, poised for great things. Congratulations to Dan on his extraordinary early successes in Arts Administration!