He’s especially thinking about high school, college and graduate students, elementary and high school teachers, uniformed military personnel, first responders of all kinds, civilian employees at Wright-Patterson and citizens on public assistance. “We plan to reach out to all these communities and share this exciting new opportunity with them,” Nugent adds. “There are no restrictions on who can purchase these tickets, but we will reach out to particular groups to let them know about the opportunity.”
In addition to making the performances far more accessible in the concert hall, Nugent also plans to bring them into the community and to carry out major expansions of education programs for students and young people.
“We currently serve over 60,000 school-aged young people per year, but I think we can increase that number substantially, and that we need to focus on expanding music, dance, and singing opportunities in economically-challenged communities and communities of color,” Nugent says. “That will also mean changing the way we look as an organization, to better reflect what our community and our nation looks like.”
Here’s more about the man who is now heading the DPAA:
Patrick J. Nugent (center), president and CEO of the Dayton Performing Arts Alliance, is pictured with Dayton Ballet artistic director Karen Russo Burke and Dayton Philharmonic Orchestra artistic director Neal GIttleman. CONTRIBUTED/ANDY SNOW
Q: These are challenging times for the arts. How has the pandemic affected the DPAA and what is the organization doing to address those challenges?
A: The pandemic made live music impossible for a while. We kept our audiences engaged with digital programming and returned musicians and dancers to studio and stage as early as we could for small-scale performances. The pandemic wiped out our ticket revenue, but our donors stepped forward to help us through the season of dark stages. Loan and grant aid from the federal, state, county and city governments proved life-saving as well.
On the other hand, the pandemic gave us an opportunity to take a deep breath and a long look at our finances. A season with severely reduced expenses and emergency aid from private and public sources gave us the chance to rebuild a solid fiscal foundation for sustainable and responsible growth in future seasons.
Q: What attracted you to the DPAA job and Dayton?
A: I missed being CEO of a performing arts organization, and I missed the challenge of an artistic and financial turnaround. I also missed my wife: the effect of COVID upon her work was that we ended up living in different states for about a year. When she had an excellent professional opportunity here, and this remarkable opportunity arose for me, it gave us the chance to be back together. We have deep connections and friendships in Richmond, Indiana, and in Cincinnati, where my wife grew up and where we both went to college and then lived for several years later in our marriage. So Dayton was a natural choice.
I believe profoundly in the power of performing arts in smaller communities, and Dayton’s vibrant arts scene is deeply attractive to us both. The arts are a crucial draw for a newer, younger, more professional workforce, and I look forward to being a part of that. Local and state government support for the arts, which is growing more rare across the nation, is strong in Dayton.
The Dayton region has the affluence to support the performing arts, but it also has many communities that struggle economically and from a serious imbalance in equity. The performing arts have a crucial role to play in such communities, if we are willing, and I look forward to expanding that aspect of our work. Finally, the organizational model of DPAA — combining ballet, opera, and orchestra into a single, integrated organization working toward a common purpose — is unique in the U.S. but, I believe, can become a model for smaller communities. That model has been very attractive to me since the merger first happened in 2012.
Patrick J. Nugent is the new president and CEO of the Dayton Performing Arts Alliance. CONTRIBUTED/ANDY SNOW
Q: Why have nonprofit organizations been the focus of your career?
A: Because they are so profitable — morally, spiritually, artistically, educationally, socially and aesthetically.
Q: What are your top priorities and dreams for the organization?
A: Fiscal sustainability is crucial; fiscal discipline combined with disciplined, structured, systematic fundraising will be indispensable to sustaining and growing ballet, opera, and symphonic music in Dayton. But nobody is inspired by that: they are inspired by the performances and artists.
Q: How did you first become interested in the arts?
A: My dad was a tax accountant, and a young associate of his was a brilliant pianist. I heard him play his own piano and also the piano of the church where he was the music director. At the age of five, I knew I wanted to play the piano, and I wanted to be able to do what he did —play by ear and improvise.
Equally as important, my piano teacher and my fourth-grade teacher introduced our class to classical music, opera, and ballet. I was transfixed when she showed us Bernstein’s “Young People’s Concert” featuring Mussorgsky’s “Pictures at an Exhibition.” It remains my favorite piece of classical music. She also introduced us to George Gershwin’s opera “Porgy and Bess” and the ballet “Coppelia.” I was hooked for life.
Q: What are some of your proudest accomplishments in previous jobs?
A: I was chief executive of a small college in Kenya for five years. While there, the Kenyan faculty and I gained accreditation and established a bachelor’s degree program. I also taught college for 14 years. I served part-time as pastor of a church that merged an old, ethnically German congregation with an African-American storefront church. They made that merger in the wake of the 2001 civil unrest in Cincinnati as a witness to racial reconciliation. Working with them was a privilege.
When I was executive director of the Annapolis Symphony Orchestra in Maryland, I co-founded the Annapolis Symphony Academy, a program for young musicians that was deliberately and systematically diverse in both cultural and economic backgrounds. That may be my proudest single accomplishment. Helping lead Lyric Opera of Chicago, a world-class, major performing arts company, through the pandemic successfully also felt pretty good!
Q: We understand you had a connection to Cincinnati Museum Center?
A: When I taught at Earlham College in Richmond, Indiana, we homeschooled our children. Regular visits to the Cincinnati Museum Center helped us teach them about geological and biological science and evolution, topics not widely covered in the homeschooling community of a small town. So when we were coming back from Kenya, the Cincinnati Museum Center was a natural place to work. I was senior director of individual and corporate giving and advancement services.
My Ph.D. is in medieval European religious history. I taught in the religion department at Earlham. In my last three years I was founding director of what was then called the Institute for Quaker Studies and is now called the Newlin Quaker Center.
Q: What do you do in your spare time?
A: I play the piano; never enough time for that! My wife, Mary Kay, and I love sailing, hiking, and bicycling. We really appreciate the wide network of cycling and hiking trails and gorgeous parks in the Dayton region. I also love to read and of course we love the performing arts of all kinds. I’m particularly a jazz devotee and spend a lot of time reading about, listening to, and playing jazz. We also love Cuban and traditional Irish music.
I’m also an amateur (“ham”) radio operator; members of the tribe will want to know that my call sign is N3CLO. Mary Kay and I are also avid Xavier basketball fans and are looking forward to watching games in person.
My ideal day involves NOT cutting the grass; time outdoors on a bike, a hike, or a sailboat, time to read, and time to make music. Preferably with a ten-knot breeze and a temperature of 72. A nice ethnic restaurant at the end of the day is a crowning glory.
Q: What do you hope audiences will take away from attending one of the DPAA performances?
A: Awe. That’s what these art forms do: they immerse us into the depth of artistic experiences to which we respond with awe. People who experience these forms of performance for the first time tell us that their experience is that of sheer awe.