Every teacher I know will tell you about the immense satisfaction that comes from watching a former student accomplish great things. It isn't enough simply to give an entertaining class; one wants to see the students apply the lessons they have learned and use them.
Over the past 25 years, I have spent a great deal of time teaching arts managers, and I can attest that there is nothing as satisfying as having a student take what was learned in class and apply it with creativity and individual flair in their own lives and careers.
I recently had the opportunity to watch one of my favorite students, Marek Vrabec of Prague, in action. He was in New York City to present the Dvorak Medal to Jiri Belohlavek at Carnegie Hall. Maestro Belohlavek was conducting the Czech Philharmonic and Marek's organization, the Dvorak Festival, took the opportunity to present its medal to the Maestro at a reception prior to the concert.
Marek did everything right -- from the organization of the speeches, to the remarkable violin playing of the Czech Philharmonic's concert master, Josef Spacek, who performed at the medal ceremony, to the potent array of guests. They included the Minister of Culture of the Czech Republic, the current and former Ambassadors from the Czech Republic to the United States, Carnegie Hall's leader Clive Gillinson, and even Dvorak's grandson, Antonin Dvorak III. Everyone felt honored to be at the warm, celebratory event and the superb concert that followed.
Marek also had donors and sponsors present. We might take this for granted in the United States, but as recently as five years ago, most Czech institutions had no private donors. (When I initially taught in Prague seven years ago -- when I first met Marek -- my discussions of private donors were met with polite skepticism. Still, almost 500 arts managers came to my two-day seminar; there is a tremendous hunger to learn new approaches to building revenue as governments across Europe are forced to reduce their annual subsidies.)
Marek took the lessons he learned during our DeVos Institute Fellowship program and has developed long-term artistic plans, strong programmatic and institutional marketing campaigns and active board members. He even created the first major arts gala fundraiser in Prague -- for the Strings of Autumn Festival he created 19 years ago.
With charm and grace and his own personal style, Marek has taken what we taught and now manages two highly successful festivals that feature great artists, large audiences, successful financial results and growing reputations for excellence.
In addition to building his festivals, Marek has another goal: to help create a comprehensive arts management training program in his own country so that other arts institutions can build new sources of funding; I have no doubt he will be successful.
He is the consummate arts manager, and it is a joy -- and thoroughly rewarding -- to watch him work.