Kristen Klehr

Age: 27

From: Binghamton, NY

Instrument: Percussion

Job Title: Arts Administrator/Musician

Favorite Drink: Teas, especially from smaller tea houses

"There is a misconception that we go into arts administration because we couldn’t hack it as performers. It hurts me to even say out loud because it’s so not true. The same thing can apply to being a teacher, being an educator, that you couldn’t handle it on the stage so you became a teacher, that’s another horrible misconception. I want to do everything all the time at the highest level possible, always. It’s a blessed curse, but in my mind there is no other option. I would hope that within arts admin, and as the field grows credentials-wise, that the gap would shorten between the ‘us vs. them’ feeling, the arts management vs. musician. I would hope that as things evolve those other things, like labor disputes or strikes or lockouts, those just begin to further dissipate because the greater goal is the same. We’re all pointing to the same idea, so I don’t know, we should work together."

What's been a struggle for you as an arts administrator?: "It sounds silly, but I had to learn that not everyone was going to be my friend. I usually like to at least get to know everyone and be friendly with them, but I had to realize that not everyone is going to want anything more than that, and I can’t take that personally. Something that I’ve also been recently working through in my head is that I kind of feel like a huge disappointment to arts administration professors and mentors because I haven’t really landed that big name thing that I was supposed to do apparently. I know that those expectations I feel are set out by others on me, as well as my own pressure that I put on myself, but it still has a pretty strong weight on me sometimes. But, I’m slowly coming to understand and accept that I want a job that doesn’t exist yet, and that that’s OK. I want to produce innovative orchestra concert experiences, and yeah, it’ll take longer and the work will be harder, but I kind of have to leave those pre-conceived expectations put on by others and myself at the door, and just dig in and make it happen. We have to be a little bit fearless in this field because, within the arts and humanities. You are most often exposing a deeper side to yourself, and that’s scary sometimes."

What about as a musician?: "I think understanding and accepting that sometimes it can be very lonely. I mean, we spend so much time by ourselves in the practice room, being pretty hard on ourselves, and getting to know our inner thoughts through and through - the good and the bad. Even surrounded by musicians and colleagues, I still feel pretty lonely sometimes. It’s ok, it’s not the end of the world, it’s just a thing I’ve noticed, and I think this field has a lot of that innately built into it."

Advice to Others: “I feel like there’s this idea that people with “a career” are only allowed one strength, that you must pick this, that you must be good at just this and less good at that. I’m good at playing percussion, but I’m also good at running music festivals and producing concerts. Do you know Nelson Mandela’s inaugural speech? It’s kind of long, but I there’s this famous passage that states:

'Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate, our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure, it is our light, not our darkness that frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, talented and fabulous? ….Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine as children do….It’s not just in some of us it is in everyone. As we let our light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.'

I mean, when I finished undergrad from music conservatory, there were a good amount of people who were surprised that I wasn’t just going to continue on with performance. But I have always been doing things on the side, or planning things or been a part of organizations and leading this or that. You find yourself naturally falling into different roles, and if you know you do well in multiple things, why would you intentionally extinguish one or the other?

Memorable musical moment: "Baldwin Wallace Conservatory has this giant Bach festival, and for one of the light classical concerts we did a PDQ Bach piece. We had set up an entirely fake percussion set up full of our junkie cymbals, tin cans, and a giant multi percussion set up. There’s this one note that in the piece called ‘crashioso grandioso’, and we had one of the freshmen dress up in a gorilla costume, creep out and just charge at the fake set up, just knocking the entire thing down. We didn’t tell the guy conducting the piece that we were going to do that for the concert, haha. It was amazing. He forgave us, don’t worry."

How do you define inspiration? Motivation? Discipline?: "I think you need to have discipline while still being in touch with yourself, in touch with others and what’s going on around you. Know how you operate, know what makes you tick, how do you work best. But discipline itself...I don’t know, it’s just kind of a no brainer for me, I just know when it’s time to work and work hard. I think motivation is a bit of also possessing the confidence and courage to know that you’re doing well and that you do good work; to know that if you do take a risky leap and jump into a project, that yeah, you’re going to do well - and if you don’t do it well the first time, then in do it again, and try to do it better. With inspiration though, that’s much easier, I get inspired very often. I’m a people-watcher. What makes people spark? The last couple of years I’ve also gotten more in touch with sensing people’s energy and passions and I get inspired by that so much, in combination with my own passions. I also secretly get super inspired by sunrises and sunsets - there’s just something about them, so freeing and recharging for the soul."

Charity/Cause to bring awareness to:

Hobbies: Fitness instructor; enjoying a good pun; breakfasts; marimba/voice projects; getting to know people.