Springfield native Evan Bennett took the administrative reins of Springfield Ballet on Sept. 2, succeeding Business Affairs Manager Caitlin Kissee, who took a job as director of community relations for startup Loehr Chiropractic and Acupuncture LLC. Glendale High graduate Bennett studied vocal performance at Oberlin College’s Conservatory of Music and earned his master’s in music from the Manhattan School of Music in New York before working two years in Austria as an English-speaking teaching assistant. He returned to Springfield two years ago and began working at SRO A Lyric Theatre, where he coordinated the monthly Operazzi. Bennett is pursuing an MBA at Drury University.

Living Abroad
“I had a Fulbright (scholarship), but it was actually a program through the Austrian government. We taught English. I loved those two years because all of my dreams about the ‘Sound of Music’ came to life. The other great thing was that I was given a living wage to teach for 15 to 20 hours a week, so I really had a lot of free time to get to know people. I did do some singing while I was there, but it was mostly small [performances]. I had a great teacher at the Vienna State Opera. I didn’t really know what to do after that, so I came back home.”

‘Business Side of the Arts’
“I had an appendectomy, and that sort of threw me off course during my undergrad in 2006 or 2007. Not that I didn’t love performing after that, but it was really hard to get back to where I had been. It was a huge setback artistically. I came back here and started working on the business side of the arts. I didn’t really know what to do, so I took a business class because I felt it was one of the areas of my education that I didn’t get. I took one class at Missouri State, and then decided to get my MBA at Drury. When you go to school for performance, you’re not supposed to talk about numbers. It is kind of taboo. You’re supposed to live for the arts. I didn’t have any experience with it until I started working at SRO.”

Starting Over
“At the opera, it turned from an internship into a job. I did a lot of outreach, and we started Operazzi while I was there – our monthly, free open mic. We had to find donations for food, so we worked with 30 or so restaurants. And we hosted it monthly, so I had to find people to come out and perform. Everything about it was kind of my job – find restaurants, find sponsors. After that, I did the education tour last spring, and that went out to all the first graders in Springfield with the ‘Three Little Pigs,’ the John Davies’ opera. We went to 35 public schools, two public libraries and three sponsor performances, so three casts, two universities and a very portable set that fit in the back of my Yukon.”

Taking the Post
“I had known Caitlin from working in the building. It’s a very tight-knit community. We see each other. We all go to the same events. Springfield is a great community that fosters a lot of art, but the community is only so big. The job that I’m doing is exactly what Caitlin did. One of my big goals is understanding our donor base better. We’ve done a great job of understanding our audience, but I think we could do a great job understanding the donors, too, because they are not always the same. We are embarking on a donor-perception survey through the Community Foundation [of the Ozarks].”

The Shows Go On
“We do two main stage productions a year: ‘The Nutcracker,’ – this is our 29th anniversary season, so next year will be a big year – and then we have our spring show … We do have the ballet school here, so a lot of the performers come from the school. … Ashley Paige [Romines] is our artistic and school director, so she oversees everything from what productions we do to casting to the school itself, including what classes are offered. I am responsible for everything else. We have right around 155 enrolled students. The annual budget is right around $350,000. It’s about three-fold; it breaks down into the school, production and then fundraising.”