A career in performing arts isn’t limited to the stage.For Pullman’s Kristin Lincoln, who became the executive director for the Washington Idaho Symphony in September, the work involves as much business acumen as artistic creativity. Combined with a love of the arts, she hopes these valuable skills will benefit not only the symphony, but the broader performing arts community. She shares this about her work and how she landed her “dream job:”
Education and areas of focus: Lincoln grew up in Pullman and got a degree in business administration with an emphasis in entrepreneurial studies from Washington State University. But that wasn’t the first plan. She was going to go into photography and took a couple business classes thinking they might be useful. “I ended up falling in love with business in general,” Lincoln said. “I knew arts were always going to be part of my life, but I found I also enjoyed accounting and marketing. It’s rare to find people in this industry who have a business background. People are always surprised when I can read a profit/loss statement.”
An East Coast nonprofit education: After graduating, Lincoln and her husband moved to Boston for four years, just for the adventure of it — “Sometimes when you grow up in Pullman, you just want to go somewhere completely different,” she said. There, she got involved with Bad Habit Productions, a theater company that was in its second season. She used her business background to develop job descriptions, roles, policies and more. “We turned it in into a professional operation,” she said, an experience that proved valuable in her later work in the arts.
Back to work on the Palouse: After the couple and their newborn son moved back to Pullman, Lincoln held various administrative jobs — at WSU, University of Idaho and Pullman Parks and Recreation — while maintaining involvement in the arts, including the business and administration aspects of the Pullman Civic Theatre. “Every job I’ve had has put me in the perfect position for the one I have now,” Lincoln said.
Finally, the big career switch: Her role with the theater had her learning about non-profit management. Instead of watching TV in the evening, she’d read up on strategic process. So when the position opened up at the symphony, she applied and, after a rigorous interview process, was hired. “I was able to walk away from a job that just paid the bills into the career I always wanted,” Lincoln said.
Musical partnership: Lincoln is the symphony’s first full-time executive director, a job she’s finding takes more than 40 hours a week. In the past, the position also included the role of music director. That role is currently held by Danh Pham, who conducts the WSU Symphony Orchestra, Symphonic Wind Ensemble, Opera and Musical Theatre and teaches related courses. He understands the business side of the operation, Lincoln said, and is easy to work with, “I couldn’t have asked for a better person to partner with in this organization.”
Goals for the organization: “The biggest goal is linked to our biggest challenge, which is getting people to come to our concerts, to be quite blunt about it,” Lincoln said. In many ways the problem doesn’t make sense. She was at a recent symphony concert in Portland, where she closed her eyes and realized it sounded no different from a concert here. ”You listen to them and they are just phenomenal,” Lincoln said. “They’re the highest professional level of musicians you can find.”
The intimidation factor: Affordable access to a local, professional symphony doesn’t seem to be enough to draw crowds. Plenty of people listen to classical music on the radio, she said, but these people don’t seem to come to concerts, “There’s this perception that ‘it’s too fancy for me’ or ‘it’s something my grandma would do.’” But that’s not the case, Lincoln said. Concerts are comfortable and accessible.
Supporting arts in the region: Besides building a patron base, Lincoln aims to work with other performing arts organizations. “One of my passions is the power of collaboration. One of my biggest things is that we’re better together,” she said. Rather than performing arts groups operating alone, Lincoln hopes to see continued communication, cross-promotion and support among groups, with potential for groups coming together to produce shows — for example, a concert that includes elements of theater or dance.
Volunteering set design for the Lewiston Civic Theatre: Lincoln’s efforts at collaboration have landed her in a monthly meeting for arts organizations in the Lewiston-Clarkston Valley. “I met Nancy McIntosh (executive director of the Lewiston Civic Theatre) who does what every good director does, which is to put a glass of wine in someone’s hand and ask them to do some work for them.” And that’s how she ended up designing the set for the Lewiston Civic Theatre’s current production, “Wait Until Dark.”
On the upcoming symphony concert: The symphony performs several songs by Mozart this weekend, an ideal opportunity for those who are new to the symphony. “I love Mozart. It’s embarrassing that I don’t name some obscure composer, but I like Mozart. He’s very approachable,” Lincoln said.
IF YOU GO
WHAT: “Mozart and Friends” by the Washington Idaho Symphony
WHEN and WHERE:
7:30 p.m. Saturday, Ensminger Pavilion, Washington State University, Pullman
3 p.m. Sunday, Silverthorne Theatre, Lewis-Clark State College, Lewiston
COST: $10 to $25, college students and children admitted free, advance tickets at wa-idsymphony.org