Arts management grad Lára Sóley Jóhannsdóttir took time out of her role as Managing Director of the Iceland Symphony Orchestra, while they were in Cardiff on their UK tour, to come back and visit us.
Lára, who graduated last year, got her prestigious job while she was studying the Arts Management MA.
She’d originally studied violin at the College, graduating in 2006, and had returned home to Iceland after getting her degree to pursue a career in performance.
But she was always interested in the arts management side of things.
“When I started to do my research into arts management courses, I noticed that this course had a 100% employment rate.
I was going to have to bring my husband and three children over with me while I studied here so I needed to know that it would be worth it,” she said.
“I already knew that Cardiff was a lovely, personal, friendly city, with so many opportunities, and the College had welcomed me like a family as soon as I arrived for my first audition, so I was also really keen to come back.”
“I’d already got some experience in artistic management and line management from my work since graduating,” continued Lára, “but this course taught me about everything else: finance, marketing, fundraising.
We had a lot of people who came from the industry for lectures, it was very hands-on, and an intense, brilliant year.
In my new job I need to know about all aspects of arts management, so the insights I gained across the course prepared me well.”
Lára’s first course placement was with Head of Jazz Paula Gardiner, helping her to arrange the Gilad Hekselman jazz projects and the resulting performances in Cardiff and London.
She then worked with the College’s Orchestral Manager: “It was really interesting seeing an orchestra from the other side rather than performing in it.”
Her final extended placement was with BBC NOW, which was “amazing because by then I had got the job as Managing Director of the Iceland Symphony Orchestra. Staying to complete the placement before moving to Iceland was really valuable as I had access to the senior management team as well as the orchestral management. It really was like a course in ‘How to Run an Orchestra!’
I got so much experience and insight while I was there, and everyone at BBC NOW is still so supportive. In fact I’m having meetings with them while I’m in Cardiff tomorrow.”
There’s only one professional symphony orchestra in Iceland so these relationships are extremely important to me. It was brilliant that my placement at BBC NOW taught me so much and introduced me to so many fantastic people.”
What advice do you have for our students?
“Start networking as soon as you start doing this course,” said Lára. “Students on the course come into contact with so many industry professional while studying. They wouldn’t normally get access to so many experts in one place so make the most of it!”
“I wish I’d done that when I was here studying music.
I found it hard to market myself then, but it somehow feels different to market an orchestra. I think it is important when promoting yourself, to think of yourself as a brand and focus on what you want to say about yourself.“
Students can choose to specialize in various aspects of arts management while studying – from producing to orchestral management and fundraising to marketing.
Last year’s students have gone on to a wide range of jobs that include the Artistic and Music Co-ordinator of Opera San Jose, California, Production Assistant at Sonia Friedman Productions, Casting Assistant at Welsh National Opera, Marketing Manager at St Davids Hall and Wales and West Manager for The Big Lottery.
Find out more about the Arts Management course here.
Photos: Simon Gough