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Evan Bennett, 29
Executive Director, Springfield Ballet, Inc.
Evan Bennett is proof that true artists don’t always have to be performing to follow their passions. A graduate of Glendale High School, Evan earned degrees from Ohio’s Oberlin Conservatory of Music and the Manhattan School of Music in New York, with the goal of being a professional singer. But after an unfruitful run on the “hamster wheel” of the New York audition circuit led to burnout, Evan went to Austria to teach English under the Fulbright Program. There he spent two years re-energizing (and fulfilling his dream of singing “The Sound of Music” on a mountainside).
When he returned to Springfield, he took a job as an assistant for the Springfield Regional Opera: a Lyric Theatre, where he headed up Operazzi, an open-mic community opera event, into a must-attend event and started his MBA at Drury. After a short stint at Missouri State University, he returned to the Creamery Arts Center as Executive Director of the Springfield Ballet.
He says he applied for the job because he admired the work of the Ballet, its previous directors, and the Springfield arts community’s broad emphasis on the arts as education. “I enjoy building things, and along the way I stumbled on the fact that I enjoy being in administration for the arts,” he says. “It was kind of an accident but a happy accident.”
Evan volunteers by helping out at Springfield Little Theatre, participates in The Network, and sits on the board for Any Given Child, an arts education program sponsored by The Kennedy Center in Washington.
Job title and where you work: Executive Director, Springfield Ballet, Inc.
- Bachelor of Music, Vocal Performance, The Oberlin Conservatory
- Master of Music, Vocal Performance, The Manhattan School of Music
- M.B.A., Drury University (expected December 2015)
City or town where you live: Springfield
- How did you end up at your current job/profession?
It has certainly been a winding road and I never would have guessed where it was going to lead. When I was in high school, all I knew was that I wanted a career in the arts. At the time, I was sure that I wanted to be an international opera star at the MET in New York. So, I went to the Oberlin Conservatory to study vocal performance and then later to the Manhattan School of Music in New York. After my master’s, I decided to apply for an English teaching assistantship through Austrian American Education Commission/Fulbright Program. In my two years there I lived in Vienna and Linz, Austria and loved every minute of it. Before I moved there, I had fantasies of singing the Sound of Music while running up mountains. And in my first week, I did exactly that! I had the opportunity to work with some amazing people and discovered how to use my training to teach English.
When I came back, I wasn’t really sure what my next step should be. I knew that I had never really understood the business side of the arts and I wanted a fuller understanding of the industry. So, I took a business class and then decided to start working towards an MBA at Drury. Simultaneously, I started working at Springfield Regional Opera and discovered that I had just as much fun on the business side of the arts. While at SRO, I had the wonderful opportunity to develop programs like Operazzi, a free opera open mic and The Three Little Pigs tour where we went to every elementary school in Springfield to present a children’s opera to every first grader in the Springfield Public Schools.
My experience over two years at SRO led to the amazing chance to take the job at Springfield Ballet. Working in the same building, I had always been impressed by the structure and work ethic at the Ballet. Since starting at the end of August, I have not been disappointed. The Ballet is an amazing experience of hard-working and dedicated people. In my opinion, I’m definitely one of the luckiest people alive.
- Where do you find passion to do what you do?
As a performer myself, the thing that I love about what I do is the chance to create opportunities for other artists. I look at it this way, if the team in the office at the Ballet didn’t come to work every day, there would be significantly fewer chances for audiences in Springfield to experience full-length ballets like The Nutcracker and even fewer opportunities for people to perform in one. We provide an essential component to what makes life worth living. Being able to help bring the arts to the next generation and to ensure their survival is certainly what makes me love what I do every single day.
3. Are you single/married, and do you have any kids?
- What are your hobbies (when you’re not working)?
My hobbies are varied and I continually try and find new things to work on. I do love to perform when I get the chance. I also love to bake and cook. I learned to speak German when I was in Austria, so I try and keep that up by reading or finding chances to speak. I also love to travel. There are a ton of places on my bucket list. Places I’d love to go include: Scotland, Ireland, Denmark, Sweden, Australia and New Zealand.
- Are you involved in any charitable organizations?
I do try and get involved and give back in the ways I can. I enjoy getting involved at the Little Theatre. Aside from performing in the shows, I also teach a class each semester for their aspiring young performers. This semester is diction. I feel incredibly lucky to use my training to give back. I’m also involved with Any Given Child, a Kennedy Center initiative to create arts experiences for all students in grades K-8. The tour we created at SRO was a new part of this initiative and was positively one of the most rewarding things I’ve done. Giving back to children is one of the most important things we can do. They are our future and we have to do our best to give them the best opportunities to succeed.
- Are you a member of any professional organizations?
I’m a member of The Network through the Springfield Area Chamber of Commerce and serve on the programming committee. I’m also involved with Missouri Citizens for the Arts and try and find ways to keep up with the policies that are going on in Jefferson City.
- How would you define the secret to success?
Oh, I don’t think there’s really a secret. I know that many people would say hard work. But, I think the most important thing is a driving passion for what you do. Life is too long and hard not to absolutely love what you do. Hard work is certainly a huge part of success, but I think the key to that is passion. Passion makes the work a labor of love.
8. What's your favorite thing about your career?
The chance to make an impact where I live is certainly my favorite thing about my career. Every day I see the direct impact of what I do and there is absolutely nothing more rewarding.
- What's your favorite thing about working in 417-land?
The people. There are really some amazing people here. I’m inspired by a lot of people here: my family, my co-workers, my friends and all of the incredible people who volunteer in Springfield.
- If you could go back and give the high school version of yourself one piece of advice, what would it be?
Keep being yourself. I worried a lot about what other people thought about everything. I would definitely tell myself to just dive into my passions headfirst. I would also tell myself to dress better, but I feel like everyone feels like that when they look back.
- What was your “dream job” at age 5?
I wanted to be a Disney voice. I think secretly I still want that to happen…
- List three traits that define a successful career:
- Makes a difference in the world
- Brings the arts to the next generation
- Leaves a lasting impression on the industry and community.
- Why are you a 20 Under 30?
That is an impossible question to answer. I just feel incredibly lucky to have been chosen and incredibly grateful to the people who nominated me.
- What projects do you have on the horizon at your job that you’re excited about?
One of the most exciting things about starting my job at the Ballet right now is that we are gearing up for the 30th Anniversary of The Nutcracker. It’s been such an incredible and integral part of our community for so long and I’m excited to share this part of its history here.
- What completed project are you most proud of?
The SRO Education Tour of The Three Little Pigs was one of my proudest achievements to date. It took us five months to get to all 36 elementary schools in Springfield along with one Catholic school and two public library performances. It was a logistical challenge to balance three casts and getting to and from every school. But, getting to have an intimate performance setting with every first grader in Springfield was definitely the reward.
Fill in the following blanks with five words or less:
__Adventures, art, friends and family__________________ make life worth living.
A day at work wouldn't be complete without something completely unexpected happening, variety is the spice life_!
Ten years from now, I hope I'm _still working in the arts and striving to make a difference _______.
If I won the lottery tomorrow, I would __set a part of it aside as an endowment for the arts and set the rest aside for travel_____.
The best part about being a 20 Under 30 is getting to be a part of a great group of people who are all working hard to make Springfield a better place_.