Creating the Rozsa Admin Fundamentals Training (RAFT) Program


Geraldine Ysselstein Arts Leadership Director

The inspiration for designing and developing the Rozsa Admin Fundamentals Training (RAFT) program, a program for early arts administrators evolved out of many different experiences in my life including: living in an art gallery/concert hall, taking piano and viola lessons, learning about the El Sistema music program, and my desire to integrate the arts into learning arts administration.


Similar to many others entering into the field of arts administration, I didn’t know I was doing arts administration until I had been active in it for several years. Growing up, I lived with my family in an old schoolhouse in Ontario built in 1862 that we transformed into an art gallery and concert hall.


Part of my teenager responsibilities included answering the phone for ticket sales, setting up the chairs in the hall, hanging up coats, showing audience members to their seat, serving apple cider at intermission, page-turning, and being a good host to the artists and audience. While this was a private venture, I often wondered what it would mean to be a non-profit, whether a registered charity was the same as a non-profit, what it would mean to have a board, how one would apply for a grant, and how we could attract more people to come to our concerts and gallery.


All of these questions informed the content of the Rozsa Admin Fundamentals Training program as I know that many other early career arts administrators have the same questions.


The RAFT program focuses on the story of one organization – the fictional Multicultural Youth Orchestra which offers music programs for young children based on the El Sistema music program. I was especially interested in featuring the El Sistema program because of my background in music - having taken piano and viola lessons and performed in small ensembles and orchestras; and also having worked at Banff Centre for Arts & Creativity in Music & Sound, Wilder & Davis Luthiers, and the Calgary Civic Symphony.


Another appeal for me is that the El Sistema program is recognized internationally and throughout Canada; it uses the arts to build skills and address systemic challenges; it values inclusion, connection, and community for vulnerable populations; and it knows no boundaries of language, race, religion, or background. These are all values that many arts organizations and arts administrators can also relate to.

While developing the content for the Rozsa Admin Fundamentals Training program, I was very curious about developing a case study as a tool for learning. Case studies connect theory to real lived experiences and focus on a “story” which is so important to the work we do in the arts. I was fortunate in my timing to attend workshop sessions at the University of Calgary about the process of creating and using case studies in the classroom. The case study I developed about the Multicultural Youth Orchestra has a twist as it is an interactive case “story” whereby the participants of the program take on active speaking roles as volunteers, board members, and staff; in addition to small group activities, discussions, and presentations.

It was a joy to develop the Rozsa Admin Fundamentals Training program in 2017 and bring all of my varied interests and work experiences together. It was also not a solo endeavour and I have many individuals to thank including my co-facilitator Derek Stevenson and all the Rozsa Foundation staff; as well as those who provided feedback in the early stages including: Osmond Chiu, Devon Cornelisse, José Gregorio Duque, and Amédée Waters. Thank you!

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