Student Spotlight: Rob Hansen

Hansen.pngRob graduated from the University of Melbourne in 2012 with first class honours in Musicology. Following that, he worked in artistic administration at both the Australian Youth Orchestra and Gondwana National Choirs, two of Australia’s best training grounds for young musicians. He then spent two years in Strategic Development at the Sydney Opera House, Australia’s busiest performing arts centre, where he worked with a range of stakeholders, primarily on communications and fundraising projects. While at the Opera House, he volunteered as a writer and broadcaster for Sydney’s independent community radio station, FBi Radio, and worked as a professional choral singer. Since moving to Manhattan in 2016, he has been singing regularly with the Choir of Trinity Wall Street, and has interned in programming at both National Sawdust in Brooklyn and Moogfest in Durham, NC, and in development at The Kitchen in Chelsea.

Tell us more about yourself!


What attracted you to the Arts Administration Program at Teachers College, Columbia University?

First, I wanted to build on my previous experience in Australia by filling gaps in my knowledge, particularly in governance, business policy and law. Second, I wanted to be in an environment that fostered academic discussion and analysis of major issues facing the arts today, including visiting seminars for leaders in the field. I also saw the Columbia experience as a great way to get a foothold in the busy arts ecosystem of New York, and to be a part of a cohort full of talented and driven aspiring arts workers. I think the academic rigor of this program made it the most obvious choice on all fronts.
What are the three things you need to have on you at all times?
Headphones, a notebook and my phone.
How are your studies helping to advance your career goals?
Beyond the core curriculum which addresses all major facets of the successful operation of an arts organization, I’m able to experience such a breadth of topics across different graduate schools that I know will inform my career— from fundraising to governance, conflict resolution to cultural policy. One highlight has been a graduate historical musicology seminar on early Modernism which has been a great contrast. These choices mean I can develop a robust program of study that offers a variety of perspectives I wouldn’t have necessarily had otherwise, and allows me to focus in on what I want to offer the arts industry.
Describe student life as a member of the ARAD community.
Student life in ARAD is busy but rewarding. Between class, readings, essays and internships, we all have lot on our plate, but I’ve found that there comes a certain excitement with that. It’s exciting and stimulating to be busy, which is what life as an arts worker is like. It’s also important to set aside some space for a social life. I’ve found that there’s a great sense of camaraderie amidst the cohort. We are all going through the same busy schedule and looking out for each other. It’s empowering to be surrounded by a group of bright, ambitious people who will become your future colleagues.
What have been some of your favorite cultural experiences in New York City?
Too many to name. The calibre of performance and art here is just incredible, and I try to remind myself of that as often as possible. Australia produces some of the world’s best artists and performers, and many of its major cities have an enthusiastic audience for cultural events, but it is nothing like the variety and the scale of New York. Some favorites include seeing Tristan und Isolde at the Met Opera conducted by Sir Simon Rattle, Pharoah Sanders at Le Poisson Rouge, and Alvin Ailey on New Year’s Eve at the City Center.
What is one topic you have been discussing in Arts Administration classes this week?
I’ve been loving Dr Lena’s class on Diversity in the Arts. So far, we’ve covered some really tough questions about how marginalized identities and under-served communities can be better represented in major arts institutions, and how so much more needs to be done to create a pipeline of workers and artists that better represent their audience and surrounding communities — particularly in New York City.
In your view, who are some of the major influencers working in arts administration right now?
There are so many great leaders to look up to. In New York, three legendary women spring to mind who are guiding institutions through big changes, Deborah Borda (New York Philharmonic), Thelma Golden (Studio Museum in Harlem) and Debora Spar (Lincoln Center). Back home in Sydney, I think both Lisa Havilah, who’s in charge of Carriageworks, a contemporary multi-arts centre, and Louise Herron, who runs the Sydney Opera House, are also doing great work managing a huge array of community stakeholders to sustain their organizations.
What is your professional ambition or dream?
I would love to be working as an Executive Director of a multi-disciplinary arts centre some day.
Who are your three favorite artists, in any medium?
Absolutely impossible to name just three. My tastes are always changing and I’m sure I’ll have a different set of favorites in a couple of weeks. However, three that I’ve been thinking about recently are the trumpeter Donald Byrd, composer Arnold Schoenberg, and Dutch photographer Rineke Djikstra. Also, J.S. Bach. Always Bach.

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