From Arts Education to Arts Management

Posted: March 8, 2016 at 12:05 pm, Last Updated: April 4, 2016 at 10:38 am

Helen Santoro George Mason Arts Management

Helen Santoro

Master’s candidate in George Mason University’s Arts Management Program
Representative, Graduate Arts Management Society
Intern, Del Ray Community Partnership

What topics in the arts are you most passionate about and why?

There are two: music education for children and the philanthropic ability of Millennials. While I was teaching preschool, I found that music and art have an incredible ability to guide students and prevent misbehavior. It’s unfortunate that a lot of children don’t have access to music and arts. Access to music and arts should be universal, precisely because it builds the foundation on which to learn and grow.

The philanthropic ability of Millennials is something I am interested in because we are the future of philanthropy. The habit of philanthropy starts young, and I want to encourage others my age to consider supporting the arts organization we’ve come to love. The ability to support is not just monetary, but in time and expertise as well. The more Millennials come together as a community and as a monetary and volunteer force, the more we will see change happening.

What specific area of arts management is your focus?

Marketing and community relations. I’d like to be able to reach audiences that have been marginalized unintentionally (or intentionally) in order to create a bigger and more robust community. This community is the future of our success, and needs to be reached and included.

What is your current job title and place of work?

I am currently interning for the non-profit Del Ray Community Partnership, which works with the Del Ray Business Association and others in Del Ray to put on the town’s special events. Through that internship I am also working with the Alexandria Arts Forum in a marketing and communications role. On top of that, I am also a private music teacher to students in Alexandria and Manassas.

What did you do before you came to Mason?

I taught kids! I was a preschool teacher and director for a little under 2 years. I realized that I wanted to help bring arts and music into the classroom while I was teaching, and decided to pursue a Master’s in Arts Management.

Are you involved in any arts leadership roles outside of work?

I am creating a Pre-K music curriculum that borrows from Music Together, Feierband’s First Steps in Music, and my own observations while teaching music. Each month, we explore different themes through song and movement. I am also working with a new nonprofit, Global Educational Council, that aims to help women in Ghana become educated. I was also recently asked to be an inaugural member of Washington Performing Art’s Junior Board.

What inspires you as an arts leader?

Hmm, that’s tough. I don’t necessarily consider myself an “arts leader.” In fact, until I wrote out my biography, I hadn’t really considered how many cool things I’ve actually accomplished in my life. Out of the box thinking really inspires me; the idea that “no one has done that before” or “that’s not possible” inspires me. I am quite stubborn, like my mother, so when someone tells me I can’t do something, I very often do it anyway. I’m also inspired by the story: the story of how things happen, the story of why things happen, etc. I’ve tried to live my life as a story, where everything has some kind of meaning. I think I’ve succeeded.

What is an average day like for you?

Busy! I try to leave mornings open for meetings and my internship, and nights are dedicated to teaching or school. I often have to schedule in relaxing time, which is something I’m told normal people don’t do. I’ve never been one to have a 9 – 5 job, and I quite like it that way. Variety is always the spice of life.

Where did you do your internship?

My internship is actually something I created — I knew I needed a very flexible internship, and I knew I had a very specific goal, so I went to Pat Miller, a local in Del Ray who runs Art on the Avenue, and asked her what she recommended. Two months later, I am interning for her nonprofit which provides special events in coordination with other Alexandria organizations. It’s a lot of work, but a lot of fun.

What do you plan on doing after graduation?

My “dream big” scenario is moving to a smaller town that does not have an active arts community, and creating one! I’m not sure where and when this dream will take shape, but its what drew me to my current internship and what is driving me to succeed.

How are you applying the skills you learned in the program to your professional career?

I would say its not so much of an application as a shared experience between school and my professional career. I bring things that I’ve learned in school to my internship, and I bring things I’ve learned in my internship to school.

Who would you recommend this program to and why?

I would recommend this program to people who are in a creative field, and are looking for a leadership role. It’s not just nonprofit professionals who benefit from this program, but people who are looking to make some serious changes to the creative marketplace. A lot of my peers are interested in corporate work too, not just nonprofit. I think that’s something that is important to note: you’ll be learning best business practices for nonprofits, but it’s easily transferable to the corporate world.

About Helen

Helen has had many professional and academic roles, but one theme remains constant: teaching children. After receiving her BA in Music from George Mason University in 2011, she has gone on to be a private music instructor, leader of a community choir, General Manager of a music store, and a Montessori Preschool Director in D.C. These roles have given her insight into how businesses operate and how communities are built. She is continuing her artistic studies as a graduate candidate in the Arts Management program at Mason. She remains active teaching, finding time to instruct students in both Alexandria and Manassas in voice and piano, as well as hosting a pre-k music class in Alexandria. Her current work includes helping run special events in the town of Del Ray, interning with Patricia Washington and the Alexandria Arts Forum, and exploring new ways to bring the arts to her community.

Helen is currently a member of the Music Teachers National Association, as well as the local chapter, Virginia Music Teachers Association. She is also a member of Emerging Arts Leaders DC. Helen holds a BA in Music from George Mason, and certificate in Montessori 3 – 6 from North American Montessori Center, and is working towards a Master’s in Arts Management.