Listen: San Francisco Ballet, San Francisco, Executive Director discussed on Datebook
"Of the podcast. San Francisco city insider, I convinced the city's movers and shakers to tell me what's going right with San Francisco. And what's going very wrong, people like mayor London breed and billionaire Mark benef- have talked about homelessness, filthy streets, car break ins, and some real tricky subjects like where they go for the city's best burrito. Get the inside scoop and sim laughs on San Francisco city insider. Glenn McCoy, who's the outgoing executive director of the San Francisco ballet. And when I say outgoing I mean out the door this week, June twenty eight I believe Glenn. So my first question to you is going to be why give up this great job. It is a great job. But thirty one years, I think it's time to move on. Maybe do something different. Why don't you tell us what an executive director does? And what an executive director does not do at the San Francisco ballet. Well, I tell people that I make sure they get paid on time. So a ballet company has an artistic director handles, all things, artistic, and then the executive director handles the business side. So at San Francisco ballet that would make me responsible for all of the contracting, scheduling marketing press fundraising all of that. And you do or do. Not dance. I do not dance. You've never danced in my living room. Why don't you tell us a little bit about your background? How you landed with this job. I actually trained as an actor, but pretty quickly got into management right after college. I moved to New York like everybody else who thought they were going to be an actor. But I got part time work at the Metropolitan Opera in the marketing department, and I just loved it. So I decided, I was going to bag the acting career and just pursue pursue a career in administration. But and I was in marketing until the San Francisco opera hired me in nineteen eighty six. So after being the advertising manager at the met where a lot of what I did was promote American American ballet theatre's met season in any of the big international. LA companies that came through. I really fell in love with ballet, and so when the new management team at San Francisco ballet invited me to cross Franklin street, I was happy to do that. You glossed over my favorite part of your whole resume. When you said, you went to college, you didn't say where it lands Appalachian state university in Boone North Carolina. I take it. They don't have a dance, major there, or do that. It was part of the P E department. So I had the take dance class in order to get my degree. But I let's say I didn't have a gift for it. So valet is one of the more is probably the most labor intensive to my mind of all the art forms because it involves both. Onstage act, and full orchestra. Correct. Why don't you tell us how many people who does what and what it takes to put on a ballet? So currently San Francisco Ballet's about a fifty eight million dollar operation per year. And so we do have our own orchestra. One of the great ballet orchestras in the country. We have forty nine tenure players, but we play with an average of about sixty five players depends on the instrumentation, and then they're probably about seventy five professional dancers. Then, of course, you've got a school with almost four hundred students enroll and and a big staff. So a lot of people to put on just one ballet. Right. That's right. More so than anything else, you've experienced more so than opera, not necessarily uppers pretty big operation to. One of the things I loved about being in a ballet company, though, was the fact that it's a resident company of artist. I was used to at the met, you know, the big opera stars coming in just for few weeks. But then there are gone, but here, you know, our stars are with us all the time. They live here. They live here. Very interesting. And so your talent. And this is no small talent might be the biggest talent involved shaking the trees for money. My understanding is took it from a thirty million dollar budget to fifty five million dollar budget. Now, have you managed to accomplish that what's your what's your secret? Well, it's taken three decades, of course. But we always lead with the art and ever since Helgi became artistic director, nineteen eighty five I think he's really been pushing pushing our audiences. He certainly pushing our artists, and I would say that San Francisco now probably has one of the most sophisticated audiences for dance in the country, and I think that sort of drive and Embiid coming from the artistic team as what really has mobilized the community to support San Francisco ballet. And you also take it on the road in which case you have to promote it in all these other countries and cities how. How does that work? We we're big company, so we don't do a lot of touring. We probably do two or three weeks of touring per year, but we just came back from two weeks in London, which was very exciting. We took the entire company. We did twelve different ballets and all of them were UK premiers, we played at Sadler's Wells theatre where they really put a put an emphasis on commission work. And so we're say love saying, San Francisco ballet, come in, and see choreographers that they don't get very often in London. Why is it important for mar point of view for the San Francisco ballet, to tour, internationally and nationally? Well, you know, I, I think we're little geographically challenged at least in the the dance field being. The west coast, we have to I think we're harder to tracked artists and keep them here. Typically, ballet dancer might be based in New York or London, and they can pretty easily get to other companies, they do more guesting. That's her thing in order for us to attract the best talent. We have to have a strong touring program. We have to do pretty sexy touring in order to keep dancers interested. And it also helps build the international reputation you can't really be an international player in ballet, if you're not seeing, and you go to every performance here when the when the ballet season is on not every performance I do try to see every cast. So that would be how many performances a year. Would you say a season? Boy. Let's see, I see three or four performances of each of our eight programs. And God knows how many nutcrackers I've seen. Do you have personal favorites? Of course, you're going gonna tell us what they are. Of course not. Tell me about the nutcracker you coming up on the anniversary. San Francisco, ballet was the first American company to produce the full length nutcracker in nineteen forty four. And so we'll be celebrating the seventy fifth anniversary of that. First Merican nutcracker. Do you remember your first day on the job at San Francisco ballet? I do what happened. I actually had just left the opera in had been hired by the marketing director to edit a souvenir book for a tour to Asia that the company was was going on. And so I remember I didn't have a desk or a phone. I was sort of walking around with a clipboard. I still have the clipboard trying to gather all the photos and information I needed in order to put this book together. But I meet -ly liked the people I was working with. How important our personal relations between you and your board members, you know, I think the personal relationships you build with every part of the company are critical to making the work happen and to actually enjoying what I do. So I've enjoyed more than three decades of a very supportive board of very generous with their time and their resources. I think you know, when they when they brought Helgi and really said something about the vision they had for the for the ballet. I'm not sure even they understood how successful the company would would become but I know that they're very, very proud. And I know this because I watched you do it you at the opening walk around with envelopes every year. Correct for explain that to us. Well. Well, a little bit of personal touch. I write a little note to the major sponsors of the event so that they know that they're welcome and how much their support means to us and what do you foresee happening on your last day at work? That's a good question right now. It's blocked out for a lunch in to clean up thirty years of staff. It's not going very quickly where we'll all that stuff. Go a lot of it will go to, to our new place up in sonoma's. But a lot of it will go to the archives. And when you disappear up to cinema to grow these tomatoes. Who's gonna fill your shoes at the ballot? Well, I am very excited that they have Kelly Tweedle coming in Kelly has a solid background in orchestra and opera management. She was with San the Seattle opera for a long time. And now she's at the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra. And I think she's going to be a terrific fit. What are going to be the big challenge is going forward for the ballet? Well, I think the, the same for many arts institutions were working through some transition in how. Audience's, consume the work more and more. They're looking to engage digitally. So I think all of us are watching trends, declining audiences. So I think we have to continue to look for, for ways to remain relevant. We do. That's why we're doing so much in the community these days because again, it comes down to relationships and we, we need to the ballet to be something that everybody in San Francisco feels welcome at a we to assume then that, like everything else. Kids will be watching ballet on their phones. They do already they do already. But I think all of us in the performing arts, we have to get better at telling the story of the power of the communal experience of live performance of always wondered if there are any major fiascos on stage. I never happen to see any when I'm there. But I bet if you go there for C ever for cast perform every show you seem. I have. Whether is one a few years ago, performance of Giselle there to dogs that come on in the first act and I'm not telling tales out of school since I think it was in the chronicle, but apparently the they became amorous on stage and. The cast could couldn't get them apart. And so after that Helgi determined that there would only be one dog on stage at a time. The fire department dogs. They should have done. Why don't you tell us about what your plans are for retirement? Well, I have given myself the first six months to not make any commitment, so I will be moving to cinema fulltime next weekend. And one thing that I have scheduled is I'm going to walk the community Santiago across northern Spain. It'll take me about five weeks. It's a eight hundred kilometers. And so I have in my hand an item that you're carrying around win. Why don't you explain what this item is? Yeah. But my marketing team produced these seed packets of tomato seeds with my my name on it. And so that everybody can plant tomatoes. I jokingly told my board chair, Carl Pascarella when I told him last. Summer that I was not going to be renewing my contract. He said oh, but you're still young. What are you going to do up and Sonoda? I didn't know what to say so I said, I'm going to grow tomatoes. So actually, you wrote about it, Sam now it's become an urban legend. And I'm worried that people think I'm growing them commercially. Because everyone asks so, so the marketing team came up with these tomato CPAC. It's thank you, Glenn. But for the record I wrote about twice. That it's your fault. Thank you, Glenn McCoy, outgoing executive director of the San Francisco ballet.."