Kathryn Wyatt is an accomplished musician and new personality in orchestra management. As Director of Education and Community Engagement for the North Carolina Symphony from 2007 to 2009, she created and expanded programs that would inspire and captivate young audiences for the future of symphony orchestras. In 2006, she was selected to be an Orchestra Management Fellow of the League of American Orchestras. This year-long leadership training program is designed to launch executive careers in orchestra management through the observation of management practices in host orchestras, and an intense course of study and hands-on work experiences. Leading up to her work in orchestra management, Wyatt was a violist with the New World Symphony and the Youth Orchestra of the Americas. Her call to leadership in the arts was inspired by YOA’s joint performances with the Simon Bolivar Orchestra of Caracas, Venezuela, in 2005. The power and success of El Sistema moved her to begin thinking how and where else this passion for music could translate to benefitting communities.
Wyatt holds bachelor degrees in Political Science and Viola Performance from Indiana University as well as a Master’s Degree in Viola Performance from the Cleveland Institute of Music. She has performed with the indie folk-rock chamber orchestra, Lost in the Trees, the New World Symphony, Verbier Festival Orchestra, Columbus Symphony Orchestra, Youth Orchestra of the Americas, and the Spoleto Festival USA Orchestra of Charleston, S.C.
A Talk with Kathryn Wyatt
How did you hear about the Abreu Fellows program?
I heard about it through the education listserv of the League of American Orchestras.
Why did you apply?
The Abreu Fellowship offers me the opportunity to return to what inspired me to become a leader in the orchestra field: the remarkable phenomenon of El Sistema. Through the fellowship, I will be able to return to my original inspiration for my work, and be able to share that with my community.
What tools will you develop during this fellowship and how do you think these tools will be useful in your future post?
Through the fellowship, I hope to learn the skills necessary to be an effective Executive Director, community activist and advocate. I hope our courses will cover board development and management, community organizing, and executive leadership training. These tools will empower me to create lasting and effective El Sistema programs in areas with no current similar programs.
Where do you see yourself in five years? What will you be doing and why?
In five years, I hope to be finishing my fourth year as Executive Director of KidZNotes in Durham. I have come to love and be loved by this community in North Carolina, and I believe in the power of El Sistema to cause positive change in the poorest and most underserved areas in this community.
Why do you think that music education is important to a child’s development?
Music education is an important tool for expression and understanding human emotion. There are many skills and higher learning to be gained through music and the arts: empathy, complex psychology, communication, how to seize opportunities, recognizing best practices, mental focus, ambition, setting expectations, and of course, drive.
Regarding the present state of music education for children in the U.S., what has been done right and where do you see room for improvement?
The public school system and teachers continue to fight for the arts and music as critical core subjects for a “whole” child’s education. The administration and funding of the core subjects has been abandoned, and the support of the arts is an empty promise and an unfunded mandate in most public school districts. This is going in the wrong direction, and is a good place for El Sistema to start.
How did you learn about El Sistema?
Through performances with the Simon Bolivar Orchestra and musicians participating in the Youth Orchestra of the Americas.
Why do you think El Sistema is unique? What elements made the El Sistema program successful where others were not?
At a point of transition in my career, I realized that communicating and connecting with people is why I need to be in music. The essence of the arts is communication due to its nature of self-expression and its motivation to leave imprints on the world. Through providing a shared arena of communication for people of all languages, cultures and colors, music could create a premise for empathy. This is what El Sistema has the power to provide.
Have you worked with or mentored children in the past?
Yes, as a violist I have been a teacher since high school. Through gratitude for what I have learned and the opportunities that have been made available to me, I have embraced giving back and sharing the lessons I have received.