Friday, April 29, 2011

Interview: Maureen O'Brien Baker '03

Angela Krainz, UW Class of ’05, is Associate Director of Patron Engagement for the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra.  She recently interviewed Maureen O’Brien Baker, UW Class of ’03 who is Manager for Individual Giving at the Musical Instrument Museum (MIM), Phoenix, AZ.  

What year did you graduate and with what degree?
I graduated in 2003 with a B.A. in Music performance (flute) and French and a certificate in Western European studies.

What has been your field of study since graduating? 
During college and since graduating, I have worked in arts management, particularly in fundraising/development. During college, I had part time jobs at the John Michael Kohler Arts Center, the Madison Repertory Theater, National Foundation for Advancement in the Arts, and the Wisconsin Foundation for School Music.  After graduating, I moved to New York City where I worked at the Orchestra of St. Luke's, first as the assistant to the Executive Director and development department, then Manager of Development and Special Events, and finally Assistant Director of Development.  Next, I took a newly created position as Director of Development for Midori & Friends, a music education organization founded by renowned violinist Midori.  In 2009, I relocated to Phoenix, Arizona where I now work as the Manager for Individual Giving at the new Musical Instrument Museum (MIM).  MIM is a phenomenal, world-class museum that houses a collection of over 10,000 instruments representing every country and territory in the world, and also features an intimate 299-seat music theater that showcases artists from around the globe in a wide array of musical genres.  It is a privilege and a fantastic learning opportunity to work at a brand new institution of this size and scope.  I encourage everyone to visit if/when you are in Phoenix!  You can learn more at

What made you decide to go into this particular field?
My first job in arts administration was somewhat of a fluke, as I was placed at the John Michael Kohler Arts Center by a local temp agency.  I had always been involved in the arts as a performer but the job at JMKAC gave me my first taste of the behind-the-scenes world of arts management and I was hooked.  I first started working in development at Orchestra of St. Luke's and found that it really suited me.  I love coming to work each day and being engaged in a cause about which I am deeply passionate and sharing that passion with people who want to invest in the arts.  For a musician, having a steady paycheck can be hard to come by, so for me this career provides the perfect balance.  I am building a solid career that is still rooted in the arts and affords me the ability to continue to pursue performing on the side.  To me, nothing could be better than being surrounded by wonderfully creative people, advocating for the arts, helping to make the arts more accessible, and helping to ensure that we are developing the next generation of artists and audience members.

What is your favorite memory from UW School of Music? 
I have many fond memories of the school of music but my fondest are of my weekly private lessons with flute professor Stephanie Jutt. Having regular one-on-one time with a professor is something to which students in most other degree programs don't have access.  I learned a great deal about the flute, about performing, and about life from Stephanie and am pleased to still keep in close touch with her. In fact, she performed at my wedding last year in Madison!

What is the most valuable thing you learned from the School of Music?
The most valuable thing I learned from the SOM were performance skills.  During my studies, I was able to perform in a wide variety of band, symphonic, choral, and chamber music settings.  Through these experiences, I learned to be comfortable making music in many configurations, venues, genres, and styles. Continuing to perform as a flutist and singer has remained very important to me and since graduating, I have been pleased to perform as the principal flutist with the Astoria Symphony in New York and in various chamber ensembles.  In Phoenix, I now perform as the flutist with a new woodwind quintet, Sirocco Winds, and with various local orchestras, and recently joined the soprano section of the Scottsdale Choral Artists.  

Any advice for current music students interested in your field? 
I can't emphasize enough the importance of networking and the value of informational interviews.  Don't be afraid to ask someone in the field to spend 20 or 30 minutes over coffee talking with you about their work - most people are more than happy to share about their experiences and will often pass along the name of a colleague or friend whom you can also contact. I also encourage you to consider joining the board of a performing arts organization.  Job experience is fantastic, but serving as a board member brings you a different perspective and set of responsibilities that can really enhance your understanding of how nonprofits function.  I am happy to speak to any SOM students who are interested in going into the arts management or fundraising fields - feel free to send me an email at

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