Jackson Cooper may only be 23 but he is currently running Chamber Music Raleigh, a venerable 75-year-old organization celebrating classical music composed for and performed by a small group of instruments. As the executive director, Cooper brings his youthful energy to supporting the arts locally.
You are celebrating your first year as the ED. What have been your priorities?
We are strategizing ways to strengthen our foundations to continue to bring high quality chamber music experiences to audiences. This included solidifying our partnership with the North Carolina Museum of Art to make it our permanent home. The move to the museum encourages patrons to attend one of our concerts then dine at Iris or tour the museum. We have a residency project associated with each of our three Visiting Artists, in which they present free community concerts and public master classes. Our second series, Sights and Sounds, showcases emerging and established NC musicians.
Most 23-year-olds aren’t running chamber music organizations. What drew you to this position?
I have worked in Raleigh arts since I was 14. I started out as an intern for North Carolina Theatre, even organizing the inaugural TheatreSpark for SparkCon when I was 16. When I attended college, a degree in arts administration did not exist so I created an interdisciplinary degree.
Are you a musician?
I studied conducting, primarily opera and musical theatre. The practice of conducting at its fundamental level is keeping an eye (and ear) on the small details that make up the bigger picture. Running an arts organization and conducting seem to be concurrent with one another.
What can we do as a community to encourage a new generation of music lovers?
The way to encourage a new generation of arts lovers is to support the local arts scene. This means giving a donation, telling people about concerts and events, volunteering on a board. The arts are vital to Raleigh as a city. Attend, Support, Advocate, Repeat.
Can you tell us a little more about the Bernstein at 100 event?
August 2017 marks the beginning of a national celebration of Leonard Bernstein’s centennial year. All around the country, arts organizations will pay tribute. We are presenting “Anniversaries for Lenny,” which refers to a set of short piano pieces Bernstein wrote for his friends and loved ones. Lara Downes will be the pianist and Bernstein’s son, Alexander, will provide narration and backstory of each Anniversary, complete with family photos.
The project will include Lara doing a community residency for three days in September focusing on the importance of American music in understanding today’s world. On Monday September 18, she and Alexander will perform a free community concert at the State Capitol Building that will broadcast on UNC-TV. That concert will be dedicated in honor of the NC Arts Council’s 50th Anniversary.