Music Venue Mavens

Taylor Traversari

She was dazzled by the magic of the theater at age five and dreamed of performing on stage. He grew up behind the scenes, learning the ropes from his music promoter father. They met backstage during a run of “The Lion King” and fell in love mile by mile, running together while training for marathons. Now, the happy couple is preparing to welcome their second child as they navigate life together and pursue separate careers at the top of the local entertainment industry.

Rachel Traversari, 34, is senior director of marketing at Durham Performing Arts Center. The New Bern native double-majored in marketing and music at N.C. State and returned to her alma mater to earn a master’s degree in public administration. She oversees a team of six and is responsible for promoting the venue’s shows and concerts, marketing season tickets, website design and selecting future shows.

Taylor Traversari, 36, is the City of Raleigh festival producer, staging events such as the Wide Open Bluegrass Festival, and the manager at Red Hat amphitheater, where the Pittsburgh native and Penn State grad orchestrates about 40 shows a year.

What is a typical workday like?

Rachel: This weekend we have Cinderella, and next week we have a new Broadway show and a concert…No day is the same, the shows move in and out; we deal with whatever is next.

Taylor: That’s an interesting point. You are working on a show so far in advance and then suddenly it gets to the week of, and you’re still in your office working on another show that’s six months away.

Rachel, how did you find your calling?

Rachel: I interned at Wolf Trap [an outdoor music venue near Washington, D.C.] when I was in college and also worked at the theater in downtown Raleigh, selling cookies and doing whatever I could just to be involved. That was when I realized there’s a lot to theater besides being on the stage.

What about you, Taylor?

Taylor: I started working in this business when I was 16. I’ve done everything at music venues—usher, ticketing, production, security and concessions. I got a feel for all the components over my summers in high school then I went to Penn State and worked as a runner at the arena. It was an incredible job.

Since you work at competing music venues, is there ever any rivalry?

Rachel: Sometimes. Our jobs do cross paths and there may be a show that we wanted and they got—things of that nature, but we try not to bring it home.

Taylor: I root her on, I root everybody on. I believe that if it’s a healthy market, if they’re doing well, then we’re doing well. There are enough people in our market that Koka Booth, Red Hat, Duke Energy Center, DPAC [can be successful]…we all have our niches. At Red Hat, it’s a super unique spot—not a lot of cities have an outdoor amphitheater in the middle of downtown.

What do you think it takes to succeed in this field?

Taylor: A positive attitude but that probably exists for any job. You can’t let anything get to you.  [It] can be stressful, and you just have to keep cool. At the end of the day it’s just a concert, it’s just a festival, everybody’s just trying to have fun, and I think that’s important to remember.

Rachel: I think a passion for what you do is important. You have to love the industry, because it’s not always the easiest hours. But it’s really rewarding to see the experience people are having when they come to a Broadway show or comedian. And, of course, you have to like dealing with people, too. Not only are you dealing with guests that come in your door but also internally with a Broadway show or with the concert promoter. You really have to enjoy dealing with all types of different people.

Taylor: This probably goes for anyone, but a work-life balance is important for us. If you go a hundred miles per hour all the time, your life suffers. We’ll try to find that good 50/50 mix. We are lucky that my strong season is in the summer and for Rachel it’s more in the winter/springtime. It’s a tag team effort.

What is your favorite part about going to work?

Rachel: I get to do what I have loved my whole life, every day. The biggest shows that are on Broadway are probably coming here. Today, I’m working on a marketing plan for the upcoming season. Yes, it’s long hours but when you’re working on a Chris Rock show or Tony Bennett, it’s not torturous.

Do you get to meet everyone that comes?

Rachel: With the whole work-life balance we split who is working all the shows. You’re always working so you have to maintain a professional demeanor. I can’t run up to Chris Rock and get him to sign my shirt. But, for the most part, they are the kindest people ever.

Taylor: We did get to meet Mike Tyson a couple of years ago. I [usually] stay away from meet-and-greets. But meeting the Champ, he was really nice!

Is he the favorite person you’ve met so far?

Rachel: I’m not going to claim him to be my favorite…

Taylor: He would be mine, yes.

Rachel: Carol Burnett was a kind woman and Robin Williams was a gracious comedian. From a Broadway standpoint, I think it would be [Chaim] Topol, who was our lead in Fiddler on the Roof in 2009. He played in the movie, and he’s a very iconic character. He was one of the most intriguing people that I have met – not the most famous, but the most intriguing.

Taylor, what do you find most rewarding?

Taylor: This is probably a cliché, but…when the lights go down and people scream and you see that flashlight from the production guy leading the band on stage. There’s really no feeling like that. What we do is give people a chance to really enjoy themselves. Nobody comes to a concert or a festival angry, so we get to be surrounded by people [who] are just trying to have a fun time.

When you were kids, what did you envision yourself becoming?

Taylor: I remember being at Aerosmith when I was in 4th or 5th grade and watching the drummer and being like, “Dude, I want to be like that!” I played drums in a band called Airiel Down for seven years. We toured 21 states and played in five countries, and I got to live that dream a little bit.  I learned the band side, and now I know the venue side too.

It must give you an advantage to know what touring bands need or want.

Taylor: I know what they want and what they’ve been missing—small things like making sure we have next-level-up shampoo. When you’re on the road, you don’t have those luxuries.

Sometimes, a band’s tour rider with unusual requests is leaked on the internet. Have you ever had anything strange?

Taylor: Do you know the reason they ask for all yellow M&Ms or just green M&Ms? They insert those kinds of requests near, for example, the directions for the rigging, things that are important safety issues. Then, whenever a band production guy walks into the dressing room and sees all green M&Ms, he knows the venue’s production manager paid attention to what was in the rider so they feel safe. It’s to make sure there’s attention to detail.

What area shows are you looking forward to?

Taylor: We’re both excited about the Red Hot Chili Peppers coming to PNC Arena. The show is scheduled when Rachel is due to have our second baby. If she hasn’t had her yet we’re hoping to go to the show. We went to see the Rolling Stones the day before [our first daughter] was due. I wanted to name the baby after a Stones song, “Angie,” if she was born the night of the concert, which didn’t happen. Something tells me Rachel won’t want this baby to be named Flea if she has it the night of the Chili Peppers show.

Alexandra Drosu
Alexandra Drosu

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