If you looked at my resume, you would swear that I planned to be exactly where I am, training and supporting teaching artists at the third largest performing arts center in the nation. I didn’t, not by a long shot. What I did do along my career path, however, was to pursue endeavors that were meaningful and joyful to me and to do them with gusto. First, let me explain a little more about what I currently do in my job and the meandering job history will make more sense!
At the Music Center, I have the great thrill of working with a roster of forty world class teaching artists in all art forms. We send highly talented and trained artists to work with students of all ages in classrooms throughout Los Angeles County. My job is a little like being a Sherpa - to support and guide the content and delivery of these classroom lessons in the arts.
While I am not an expert in every art form, I do understand the world of the artist. Here is where my own personal background comes in extremely handy. I play cello professionally in a symphony orchestra and I have myself been a teaching artist in schools and a have been a private music teacher. This experience gives me a tremendous perspective and "buy in" when I work with artists. I get the artist thing because I do it.
There is no typical day in my job. On any given day I can be out observing a hip hop dance artist or mime artist in a classroom, sharing ways I suggest they can make stronger connections to the classroom curriculum or ways to engage students on a deeper level of inquiry and reflection. On another day, I can be planning and facilitating a seminar or workshop for teaching artists on ways that help them develop and evolve their teaching practice.
Above all, my job is about facilitating personal growth in the artist, having that spread by a multiplier effect to thousands of children, many of whom have such limited access to the arts. And here is where another part of my past comes to play.
For many years I worked in Los Angeles Unified School District in special education. In that role, I helped students learn despite having various physical, cognitive and emotional challenges. I deeply internalized how to be sensitive and aware of how people learn and to learn the many ways to deliver information for maximum "absorption." This, believe it or not, IS my job with the artists. And this is what I help them to understand with their teaching. Having worked in schools, I really gained an understanding of school culture and politics, an amazing "in" when I am working with teachers.
In this job I have landed in a perfect intersection of art, education, and personal growth, all laced with a tremendous amount of passion and meaning. But the most important thing I can share is that finding your niche is all about being authentic to your own talent and joy. Do what is unique to you and do it well and with love.
Sandy Seufert is the Manager of Curriculum and Teaching Development at the Music Center: Performing Arts Center of Los Angeles County.