Graduating Student Highlight – Tom Abruzzo

 We’re so proud of our fall 2018 graduating class! And we can’t wait to see what each of them will do next as they move from students to alumni. I checked in with one student to learn more about his experience with the program and what he plans to do next. Meet Tom Abruzz0 – a contract music director and pianist graduating this semester.

Name and where do you live/where did you attend the program?

Tom Abruzzo – As a contract music director and pianist, I remained pretty mobile throughout my experience with LEAP.  When it began, I was living in the San Francisco Bay Area but travelling often to San Diego and Los Angeles for work.  I spent a few months in the middle in New Jersey with family, and now I am finishing up in Sacramento.

What’s your background in?

My undergraduate degree is in music with a concentration on classical piano.  I’ve spent the last 12 years as a pianist, music director, and arts administrator in various forms.

Why did you choose the LEAP program?

I chose the LEAP program because performing began to feel like a self-indulgent practice to me and I knew there was more I could be doing through art.  CSU’s LEAP program boasted access to those skills.

What was the most beneficial part of the program?

The most beneficial part of the program, among many other things like law and the arts, philosophy, public policy, etc., was my new-found passion for arts collaboration and the community.  The program has helped me focus my goals in arts administration toward ensuring that, through community engagement, arts organizations have the ability – responsibility, even – to be excellent neighbors in their communities.

What are your “next steps” or plans after graduation?

At the start of my LEAP program, I also signed a 3-year contract with Galileo Learning as a program director for Camp Galileo in San Ramon, CA, in which I select/train staff and manage an innovation education program for approximately 1,000 camper enrollments each summer.  I am entering my third year in this role and then will begin to more-seriously apply for arts administration jobs.  Additionally, I have applied to University of San Diego’s Ph.D in Leadership Studies program with a concentration in Nonprofit and Philanthropic Leadership, and am waiting to hear back.  I will also continue to perform and music direct on the side.

Do you plan on attending graduation?

Yes!  My parents, who live in New Jersey, are meeting me in Ft. Collins on Thursday!

Were there any obstacles you had to overcome while earning your master’s degree?

Adjusting to the work load demanded by a graduate program was difficult, but worthwhile.  It strains relationships, finances, social engagement, and your ability to kick-back with the Harry Potter series for the third or fourth time.  In the end, however, I see the quest for knowledge as being closely tied to discovering oneself and one’s ontology.  While I cannot say that I completely understand who I am (do we ever?), the LEAP program has helped me focus my passions in the arts toward access, education, and social justice.

Anything else you’d like to share about your LEAP experience and how it has prepared you for the future?

I mean this in the best way possible, but I feel that a master’s degree in Arts Leadership and Cultural Management has helped me to realize what I don’t know.  The field, in its infancy relative to others, is amoebic and nebulous enough to allow further inquiry and a deeper discourse of practice, hence my desire to pursue a Ph.D.  To anyone considering a career in arts administration – especially if switching from a full-time performing career – I would say that the LEAP program will open your eyes to every side of the arts that you’d not considered before and grant you important skills you will need as an arts leader.