Recent Music Alum Nick Weege Takes Administrative Skills to the Dallas Symphony Orchestra
A Violist at Meadows, Weege Helps the DSO Remain Financially Strong as Senior Manager of Donor Advancement
After earning two degrees in viola performance (B.M. ’05, M.M. ’07) from the Meadows School, Nick Weege has transitioned from the performance of classical music to the administration and fundraising aspects of a major orchestra. He took some time to answer questions about his new position.
What is your current job with the DSO?
I’m the Senior Manager of Donor Advancement. I started as a part-time intern in the operations department in 2006, and then worked part time in the development department in 2008. I began working in my current position in July 2009.
What was the impetus for you deciding to move away from the performance track and get involved with the fundraising aspects of a professional orchestra?
I certainly enjoyed, and enjoy, performing, and had some great experiences. For instance, I had numerous playing engagements from 2005-2007 performing with the New World Symphony, a young professionals' orchestra based in Miami, which is the brainchild of San Francisco Symphony Music Director Michael Tilson-Thomas. The orchestra is one of the premier training grounds for young musicians who are starting their careers, and has alumni in virtually every major American orchestra. My time at New World brought some of my happiest and most fulfilling moments as a musician. Playing with a group of young people that talented always pushed my playing to a higher level. Although I was offered a three-year permanent position with them in the 2007-2008 season, I felt I had to turn them down. This also happened to be the time when I switched to orchestra management.
My gravitation to management was a completely organic process that came about partially through my frustration with the audition process and partially through a series of opportunities that presented themselves, which I took advantage of. Before joining the DSO, I had an Orchestra Management Fellowship through the League of American Orchestras; up to five people are picked each year, and travel to four different orchestras to work with senior staff on leadership of an orchestra. That was a fantastic experience which enabled me to work directly with some of the best people in this business in a number of different scenarios.
What is the most enjoyable aspect of your work with the DSO?
I’m selling something that I love to people that share that same love. It’s an interesting challenge though, because what motivates one person to give isn’t necessarily going to be what motivates another person. My job is about building individual relationships, which is fun for me.
How did your education at SMU help prepare you for your current job?
Obviously, my knowledge of music is a big asset here. I occasionally will refer back to something I was taught in one of my music history classes that now comes in handy. It’s always good to know your product.
Are you able to still keep up with your instrument?
Not as much as I would like. I play weddings and gigs occasionally, but I do miss playing substantial music. It’s hard to practice after coming home from a nine- or ten-hour work day.
Your wife Christine also plays viola. What are her plans with music? Is she taking auditions right now?
She is auditioning right now. It’s been a slow market recently since orchestras have been cutting back on hires for most instruments. If your tuba player leaves, that position is going to be filled. However, if your 8th chair viola leaves, it’s harder to justify holding an audition. She is, however, a truly exceptional violist, and a natural performer.
What has been your most memorable experience so far in working with a major arts organization?
I’ve had a lot of different experiences that have stood out, including the Orchestra Management Fellowship. I think that as far as my time in Dallas is concerned, it would be having the chance to work with the Vivaldi Patron Circle, our young professionals group, and watch it transform from a relatively obscure and unknown component of the orchestra into something much bigger and more substantial. It’s proven to me that there is a future audience for classical music in Dallas.
Could you go through a day that represents best what your job requires?
It’s rarely the same. That’s one of the things about this job that is both great and frustrating at the same time. There’s always something to panic about. I think that this keeps me on my toes. Some of the day always revolves around administrative duties. Another portion is managing relationships with donors. It’s important to monitor and keep in contact with as many donors as possible. We have committees that help us to do this as well, but of course, they need to be given the correct tools to do their jobs. In addition, there always seem to be one or two fires in any given week that need to be put out.
You grew up in Dallas, got all of your college education in Dallas at SMU, and found work with the DSO. Do you plan to live in Dallas your entire life? I realize you said this has been a very organic process for you, but do you have any plans for change in the future?
I’ve learned that it’s impossible to make any long-term work plans right now. I do know that this is the perfect place for me to be right now. I love Dallas, and I have strong roots here. It’s a great city to live in and relatively inexpensive with a strong economy. The Dallas Symphony is an orchestra with a very rare opportunity to transform itself into one of the nation’s most respected orchestras. While most orchestras in the country are cutting back their product, we are looking at how to expand ours. That is a really exciting thing to be a part of. However, you never know where opportunities will arise down the road, and it’s important to be open to them.
What is your ultimate goal with working in an arts organization?
A part of me would say to lead the development department of a major orchestra. But if you asked me two or three years ago, I would have said, without hesitation, that I wanted to be a violist in a major orchestra.
Which of your skills do you think have most helped you get to where you are today with your work?
I try to work at keeping my eyes open as to where something is going on that I could contribute to and also learn something from. I’ve seemed to develop a knack for making myself available to the right things at the right time. There’s more skill to that than one might think. I also just like to work with donors and find a way in which both the philanthropist and the receiver feel as though they’ve won.