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Elon in NYC students head to the opera

Fourteen students in the Elon in New York City summer program met with the general manager of the Metropolitan Opera.

Elon in NYC students and Communications assistant professor Dan Haygood met with Peter Gelb of the Metropolitan Opera.

Peter Gelb, general manager of the Metropolitan Opera, told 14 students in the Elon in New York City program in July that organizational change occurs best when initiated immediately. Gelb’s visit was organized by School of Communications assistant professor Dan Haygood.

“Peter Gelb is one of the global business and cultural elite leaders in the world today,” Haygood said.  “His move from Sony to the Metropolitan Opera signaled the Met’s desire for major change in its operations and operatic content.

“I was thrilled that he kindly accepted my invitation and that he was so willing to spend time with our students. This was indeed a special opportunity for us.”

Gelb discussed with the students the Met’s history, his career in music and management, and the changes he has brought to the Met since taking over as general manager in 2006.

Haygood said the primary purpose of the session was for Gelb to share his wisdom about marketing, particularly the challenge of expanding a brand’s audience to nontraditional audiences.  

As general manager, Gelb has worked to grow the Met’s audience beyond the core of loyal patrons who have supported the Met for decades. To that end, he has introduced a number of initiatives to expand the presence of the Met.

The “Live in HD” broadcasts are an example of the changes Gelb has driven. These high-definition broadcasts are broadcast live in theaters around the globe, giving individuals who cannot attend an opera in New York City the chance to see top talent perform in a selection of the world’s most well-known operas.

Gelb told the Elon group that he considers exposing new audiences to classical music and opera to be his personal professional calling, one that has driven him during his entire career. That career includes working as the manager for Vladimir Horowitz, serving on the management team with the Boston Symphony Orchestra and serving as president of Sony Classical, a prominent international classical record label.   

Haygood said perhaps the most insightful portion of the one-hour talk was Gelb’s discussion of  the importance of initiating change in an organization quickly. The opportunity to make change and have entrenched stakeholders accept that change is at its peak during the beginning of a manager’s tenure at an organization, Gelb told the group.

Gelb explained that when he interviewed with for the general manager position, he told the Met’s board that, in order to survive, it would have to reach out to nontraditional audiences and break from some of the institution’s traditional approaches. Once hired, Gelb said he moved quickly to institute changes and introduce new ideas.

Kerry Oursler, a senior in strategic communications, said she was grateful for the opportunity to meet with a global business and art celebrity.

“Personally, I was very honored to have the opportunity to meet with Mr. Gelb,” she said. “My grandparents have been longtime fans of the Met, and they were thrilled that I was getting this opportunity, and they gave me a lot of background before I went. Mr. Gelb is a celebrity in the classical music genre and has an extremely busy schedule. It says a lot that he would take the time to sit down with us. Our meeting with him was truly a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”

Elon in NYC is a team-taught, interdisciplinary domestic program offering students the opportunity to complete a four-hour general studies course along with an internship. Haygood’s Madison Avenue portion of the Elon in NYC “Streets of New York” course focuses on advertising and marketing.

Colin Donohue,
8/13/2013 8:30 AM