SFCM Announces Center for Innovative Leadership Led by Founding Executive Director Aubrey Bergauer

Aubrey Bergauer photo by The Morrisons

“Forging A New Identity for the 21st Century” –The New York Times

As The New York Times writes, San Francisco Conservatory of Music has “emphasized risk-taking and an expansive view of the field.” Deeply committed to cultivating a sense of entrepreneurial spirit among its student body, SFCM will now expand its culture of exploration with rapid-fire programs designed to empower arts professionals. The SFCM Center for Innovative Leadership will welcome its first cohort in January 2021 to the new Ute and William K. Bowes, Jr. Center for Performing Arts, a comprehensive arts hub created through a transformative $46.4 million gift in 2018.

“SFCM is built on an expansive and inclusive vision for the future,” said President David H. Stull. “To make that vision a reality, the industry needs committed and energetic arts leaders with the tools to lead their institutions toward artistic and fiscal growth. The Center for Innovative Leadership will contribute major resources and top-tier faculty and mentors to enhance the talent pipeline for arts administration.”

Arts administrators, ranging from entry-level professionals to C-suite executives and board chairs, will be welcomed to SFCM’s learning lab to expand their sense of opportunity and capacity for action. Stull expects this wellspring of creativity will inspire undergraduate and graduate students as well — with the option to audit these professional courses, students curious about arts administration will be able to immerse themselves in subjects far beyond the standard music curriculum..

The center will be led by its Founding Executive Director and SFCM Vice President of Strategic Communications, a role created for Aubrey Bergauer. Recognized by the San Francisco Chronicle as a “dynamic and innovative administrator,” Bergauer is an orchestra executive and management consultant with a proven ability to find creative solutions for arts institutions. Her data-driven approach as Executive Director of the California Symphony catapulted the orchestra onto the national stage, as it was strategically transitioned from a near-closure ensemble to “the most forward-looking music organization around,” per the San Jose Mercury News. In her five-year tenure, California Symphony doubled its audience, nearly quadrupled its donor base, and increased its operating budget by 50%, all while balancing budgets and eliminating a portion of past accumulated debt.

“As I established my consultancy, it quickly became clear that the demand for innovative and evidence-based executive guidance existed on a large scale,” said Bergauer. “When David offered me an opportunity to partner with him and assemble a team to address field-wide issues with SFCM’s substantial resources, I knew this was an undeniable chance to make an impact beyond the organizations I’m able to personally advise. By focusing our energies on developing executive leadership and good governance, we can influence the state of the industry in a more widely distributed way.”

In keeping with Bergauer’s trademark data-driven approach, the Center for Innovative Leadership will track progress toward industry-wide goals, such as diversifying the administrative talent pipeline. Internally, both recruitment and curriculum will champion equity and inclusion. Faculty and advisory board members will be cultivated across genders and ethnicities, and progress toward increasing diverse representation among industry leadership will be measured to ensure accountability. Bergauer’s own appointment hints at the type of administrator SFCM hopes to nurture.

“Aubrey is emblematic of everything we’re trying to achieve here,” said Stull. “From running regional orchestras to advising powerhouses like LA Opera and NPR, her ability to deftly move from big-picture ideation to decisive action has captured the attention of the industry. Our profession needs more leaders like her: activators who are able to conceive bold ideas and inspire stakeholders to bring those ideas to fruition. Under her direction, SFCM hopes to foster a new breed of change-makers who will drive our industry forward.”

The Center for Innovative Leadership will be nestled among the concert halls, classrooms, conference facilities, and guest suites of the Bowes Center, which opens in fall 2020. Curricular models will be designed to address the needs of multiple administrative constituencies. In June 2021, aspiring arts managers will enroll in the center’s flagship offering: Project ADAM (Audience Development and Advancement of Music) Seminar for Early Career Professionals, which will inform and empower rising leaders at the entry point to the talent pipeline. A series of alternating Level-Up Workshops will take place each January, with a cohort of first-time executive directors convening in January 2021, and a group of revenue-generating professionals in fundraising and marketing roles meeting the following year. In September 2021, orchestra and opera board leaders will have the opportunity to learn from distinguished board heads — and each other — in the Board Chair Forum.

“Conservatories typically instruct students with a single-minded focus on winning a job at a top orchestra or opera company,” said Bergauer. “SFCM is expanding that field of vision, creating options not only for its students, but for the entire arts management pipeline. By addressing every facet of industry training, SFCM and the Center for Innovative Leadership will ensure that the quality and preparation offstage matches the talent onstage.”

For those following SFCM’s trajectory since Stull began as president in 2013, this bold expansion of the conservatory’s offerings is a logical progression. SFCM has created an inclusive culture that reflects the cooperative experimentation of the Bay Area’s tech hotbed, making it a natural fit for a center that will encourage creative exploration and cultural intelligence.

“We want to attract diverse and inventive participants who have the intellectual capacity to be high-performing leaders and empower them to execute bold ideas,” said Stull. “The SFCM Center for Innovative Leadership will be a home for pioneers, shaping savvy leaders who are collaborative, curious, and comfortable setting — then breaking — new paces for the industry.”

About Aubrey Bergauer

Credited by Southwest Magazine with “redefining the classical concert experience as we know it,” Aubrey Bergauer (@aubreybergauer) defies trends — and then makes her own. Her focus on not just engaging — but retaining — new audiences grew Seattle Opera’s BRAVO! Club to the largest group for young patrons in the nation, led the Bumbershoot Festival to achieve an unprecedented 43% increase in revenue, and propelled the California Symphony to nearly double the size of its audience and quadruple its donor base. Praised by Wall Street Journal for leadership which “points the way to a new style of audience outreach,” Bergauer’s ability to strategically and holistically advance every facet of an organization, instilling and achieving common goals and vision across typically siloed marketing, development, and artistic departments, is creating a transformational change in the audience, in the office, on the stage, and in the community. A graduate of Rice University with degrees in Music Performance and Business, Bergauer has shared her ideas in speaking engagements across North America, including conferences for Adobe’s Magento, Capacity Interactive, Opera America, Orchestras Canada, and the League of American Orchestras. She blogs about changing the narrative for the classical music industry at http://www.aubreybergauer.com/writing.