Thomas Amos (’14)
Thomas graduated from the Arts Administration program in 2014. He grew up in Revere, MA, and did his undergraduate degree in Liberal Studies with concentrations in Graphic Design, Theater, and Public Relations from Westfield State College in western MA.
While working as the Assignments Manager at BU Housing and the Assistant Company Manager at the North Shore Music Theatre, Thomas decided to enroll in the program to learn more about a field he was passionate about. He is now the Associate Producer at the North Shore Music Theatre. In this interview, he talks about his current job, past positions, and experience in the program.
How did the Arts Administration program help you explore your career options and get to where you are today?
The Arts Administration program allowed me to explore different aspects of the arts that I wasn’t familiar with. One big aspect I had no knowledge of was development, so I took a lot of classes like grant writing and fundraising. I discovered that I didn’t want to work in development full-time, but I really enjoyed learning about it.
The program also helped me formalize my education in arts administration by taking classes in marketing and cultural entrepreneurship. It brought my education to a higher level and helped me interact with departments I didn’t have much knowledge of prior to the program.
How did you get started in the field?
I started as an intern in electrics at the North Shore Music Theatre. The theatre had a fire the day I was hired, so I wasn’t able to work in electrics while it was being rebuilt. They brought me into company management instead, so I went from being in production to administration and really enjoyed it. They then hired me full-time as the Assistant Company Manager.
You have been working at the North Shore Music Theatre for more than 12 years, first as the Assistant Company Manager and now as the Associate Producer. Could you tell us about your work with the organization?
I oversee casting and auditions for the theatre. I secure our audition rooms in New York, work with our actors’ union to post auditions, work with our music directors, negotiate contracts for our actors, designers, and directors, and pay all our royalties to secure the shows we produce. I also oversee company management and work with our artistic director and general manager.
Can you tell us about your experience working with other organizations?
I was a Residence Director at New England Institute of Art. The job was more student affairs-based so as a former arts student, I could better understand their struggles and address their concerns.
I worked at the New England Institute of Arts at the same time as the North Shore Music Theatre. For me, working two jobs just required a lot of time management. I could never pick between higher education and theatre. My ideal job would be working in an educational setting for a theatre, but I enjoy working in administration, so it would be difficult for me to step out of this.
According to you, what does an organization look for in an arts administrator?
I think an arts administrator should be organized and collaborative – someone who can communicate and is passionate about the organization. I think people can be passionate about the arts, but you need to be passionate about what your organization does as well, because the two don’t always align.
If I were to hire my own replacement, I would look for someone who is extremely detail-oriented, dedicated, and has the ability to multitask. It would be someone who is also a people person, because I constantly work with people who have so many different personalities.
Please tell us about a recent accomplishment that’s meaningful to you.
Recently, we’ve added a theatre for youth audiences. Instead of just producing mainstage commercial shows, we’re adding another show to our season. I’ve worked with our artistic director to institute that. It’s exciting and something I’m proud of because this hasn’t been done at North Shore before in this capacity.
Have you experienced any setbacks in your career? What did you learn from them?
I think one setback is still working at North Shore – I’ve been here for a long time. Even though part of me loves it here, I think it’s my comfort zone and I should move on at some point. It’s more of a goal than a setback, but I’d like to gain experience working for different types of organizations. Here, we produce large-scale shows involving 20-30 actors. I’d like to work at a theatre that produces shows with perhaps two or three actors, so that I’m not casting and contracting 30 people at a time.
Do you see any major challenges or issues in today’s arts industry?
I think it’s always hard to leave the program and go into the real world because you may have a lot of ideas, but sometimes there just isn’t the budget for them. Budgets are cut every day in the arts, which is a major challenge.
In today’s society, there’s so much competition for the arts due to television, media, sports, and so on. You really have to work to get someone out of their house to see something, and to spend money on an exhibit or a show. Getting someone to fund a production is another challenge. There are people willing to invest, but you have to know how to market your organization and speak to donors.
How do you stay up to date with news in the arts industry?
I just talk to my friends and colleagues in the industry. I try to network and see what trends are going on in their organizations.
Were there any classes in particular that you would recommend to current and prospective students?
The development and fundraising classes were extremely helpful for me. Cultural Entrepreneurship was also an amazing class because it was specific to what I was passionate about, so I got to cater the class to my interests. It called upon much of what I had learned in the program, such as financial management, marketing, and development to create a culmination of everything I had learned.
Do you have any advice for current and prospective students?
I would recommend reaching out to alumni if you have questions and being strategic about which classes you pick. Be diverse by not always focusing on one thing, like performing arts or visual arts. You never know when you’re going to end up in 10 or 15 years, so expanding your knowledge on a broad range of topics is beneficial.
Interview conducted by Shwetali Sapte.