Alumni Interview with Stephanie Cabacoy


Inside Arts Management: A Conversation with Stephanie Cabacoy

Stephanie Cabacoy, an Arts Management alumna, offers insight into her career path. In this interview, Stephanie shares her motivations for pursuing arts management, reflects on the experiences gained from her time at George Mason, and provides insights into the dynamic world of arts and nonprofit management.

Stephanie Cabacoy approaches all that she does with a passion for building strong meaningful relationships. As the Director of Marketing, Stephanie oversees group sales, manages the marketing and sales strategy, and serves as the main point of contact for community partnerships. Stephanie Cabacoy has masterfully heightened the American Shakespeare Center’s global presence.

In her dual roles, Stephanie, as the Interim Director of Development, takes great joy in being able to be part of the audience journey with ASC. From the patron’s first visit to their first donation to honoring and celebrating a planned gift, Stephanie takes immense pride in her commitment to community engagement. She has been instrumental in establishing partnerships with the Staunton Kindness Challenge, the Shenandoah Valley Juneteenth Organization, Mental Health of America, and the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.

Since joining ASC in 2014, she has continued to build bridges between both local and national organizations and the work being produced on the Blackfriars stage. Stephanie holds a Master of Arts in Arts Management from George Mason University and a Bachelor of Arts in History and Political Science from Mary Baldwin University.

Q: When did you graduate and what is your current position?

Stephanie: My name is Stephanie Cabacoy from the Class of 2019; I am an alumna of George Mason University's Arts Management program and work at the American Shakespeare Center as the Director of Marketing and Interim Director of Development.

Stephanie in ASC's theater
Stephanie in ASC's theater

Q: Why did you decide to study arts management and how did the program help you with your first job?

Stephanie: Since studying political science at Mary Baldwin College, now Mary Baldwin University, I have always been fascinated by nonprofit organization and their community mission-driven nature. After college, I split my time working between Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello in Charlottesville, VA, and the American Shakespeare Center in Staunton, VA. After almost two years of working two part-time jobs and getting to experience working in a museum and a live theater, I aimed to consolidate my jobs. Despite facing rejection for lacking experience, my undergrad professor suggested pursuing a master’s degree and learning about arts administration. This led me to George Mason's Arts Management Graduate Program, where I explored marketing, programming, development, and finance. The program provided insights from practitioners and administrators, shaping my understanding of effective practices from working professionals in the arts administrative world. My Arts Management studies led me to my first full-time position, I loved being able to work full-time at ASC’s box office and going to school part-time because I got to bring my ASC experiences to class and share what I learned in my everyday work at ASC. In my second year I was intrigued by fundraising and board relationship management, I interned with the ASC's Development Department which then led to a full-time Development Associate position in my last year of grad school. Over five years, I progressed to Development Manager, Associate Director of Community Engagement & Group Sales, and now to my current positions as Director of Marketing and Interim Director of Development. I owe a lot of my success to the valuable education and guidance from George Mason’s Arts Management program.

Q: What projects, research, or work are you involved with in your current role(s)?

Stephanie: As the Director of Marketing at the American Shakespeare Center, my current role involves leading strategic planning and executing promotional campaigns for the current spring season. This season features Shakespeare titles like Julius Caesar, A Midsummer Night's Dream, and the world premiere of Emma Whipday's adaptation of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. With the ASC marketing team, we segment a variety of audience communication through multiple channels. Communication outlets include e-news, social media (Instagram, Facebook, TikTok, Youtube, etc.), designed printed materials( like window cards, posters, and programs), and a mix of ads (like radio, newspaper, magazine, and TV).

Along with my marketing responsibilities, as Interim Director of Development, I am responsible for wrapping up the year-end appeal and working with the Executive Director to cultivate donor relationships to support the organization's annual fundraising goals. The development team actively engages with new donors and re-engages lapsed donors, encouraging them to come back to the playhouse for the exciting new productions.

Q: What does a typical day of work look like for you?

Stephanie: My typical day can best be described as a dynamic juggle of responsibilities that requires constant communication - and strategic delegation to ensure all facets of marketing, sales, communication, cultivation, and fundraising are effectively managed.

My Mondays always start with going to Jazzercise before heading to the office. Feeling energized, my calendar throughout the week includes collaborative meetings with multiple departments, especially with artistic, education, and Executive Director. I then take back all the information to the marketing and development team, where we create a creative brainstorming space on current and upcoming programming efforts. Topics range from upcoming social media initiatives, communication roll-out, upcoming donor cultivation initiatives, or planning promotional efforts to help keep ASC on track for both ticket and donation revenue goals. Assessing the needs of the company, I determine the priorities and projects for the week and delegate the tasks to my team to ensure we are all working towards the same goal.

Sign for Project Goodfellow's Stocking Drive
Sign for Project Goodfellow's Stocking Drive

Q: What keeps you passionate about the arts and arts management?

Stephanie: What fuels my passion for arts management is the excitement of Thursday morning Student Matinees at the Blackfriars Playhouse and the rewarding aspect of community partnerships. At the start of each performance, ASC's actors deliver pre-show music featuring contemporary songs that resonate with the themes of the play, seamlessly connecting modern hits, like those from Taylor Swift, with Shakespeare's works. Witnessing students instantly feel at home and connect with the performance makes the job incredibly fulfilling.

Another source of my passion is community partnerships. Collaborating with external organizations that align with our artistic endeavors not only provides a fresh perspective but also broadens our audience base. The opportunity to shine a spotlight on another organization and utilize our platform to uplift others is a key reason why I am dedicated to working in non-profit arts organizations.

Q: Did you always grow up surrounded by the arts?

Stephanie: Growing up, I participated in Filipino folk dancing with the Philippine Cultural Center School of Creative and Performing Arts in VA Beach. We participated in various community events and festivals, performing traditional Philippine folk dances. After our performances, we would invite the audience to join us in learning the dances. Witnessing diverse groups of people coming together to learn and dance created a strong sense of community. The positive impact of fostering unity through art has always remained a profound and inspiring aspect of my journey, reinforcing my dedication to the arts and arts management. The joy of sharing cultural experiences and building connections through artistic expression continues to drive my passion in the field.

Q: What is something you wish you had known when you first started the program?

Stephanie: As I reflect on my journey in the program, I have realized the importance of being flexible and open to change. The challenges posed by events like the COVID-19 pandemic have highlighted the unpredictability of circumstances, and emphasized the need for adaptability and a willingness to adjust plans on short notice. I have learned that the best-laid plans may require modification at any moment, which has been a crucial aspect of my learning experience.

In addition, given the financial difficulties faced by many theaters and non-profit organizations, I now understand the significance of having a diverse skill set. If I could offer advice to my past self, I would stress the importance of taking more electives during the program. Building a broad knowledge base equips you with the versatility needed to navigate a variety of challenges and makes you adaptable to any situation that may arise in the dynamic landscape of arts and non-profit management.

Q: What do you tell people an “Arts Manager” does?

Stephanie: Arts Managers are the unsung heroes of the arts world, providing essential support to help artistic endeavors thrive. They're the ones who navigate the tricky terrain of funding, logistics, and organizational management to ensure the success and growth of creative projects. By aligning artistic visions with the needs of the community, Arts Managers create a beautiful relationship that enriches cultural experiences and helps to strengthen the social fabric.

In a nutshell, an Arts Manager is like a community connector who weaves together the threads of cultural exchange and collaboration. They're the backbone of the arts world, keeping it vibrant and alive for all of us to enjoy.

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Photos by October Grace Media