When Houston Ballet Foundation was created in 1955, its founders had a vision of establishing a professional, resident ballet company and an academy to train those dancers in the city of Houston. Even with their lofty ambitions, it is unlikely the progenitors of Houston Ballet could have imagined the international powerhouse that this company has become. The Houston Ballet Academy was established the same year – 1955 – but it would not be until 1968 until a professional company was created, with their debut performance in 1969. Houston Ballet’s impressive growth has paralleled that of the city itself; it now occupies an important and unique place in the ballet world as one of the best – and the fifth largest – ballet companies in the United States.
In its 49 years of existence, the professional company has had five artistic directors: Tatiana Semenova (1955-66), Nina Popova, (1967-75), James Clouser (1975-76), Ben Stevenson, OBE (1976-2003) and Stanton Welch AM (2003-present). Much credit is given to Ben Stevenson for the company’s growth and maturation during his 26-year tenure. Stevenson’s commitment to classical training and to building the company’s repertoire – he added work by some of the most important choreographers of the 20thcentury – elevated Houston Ballet into one of the most respected companies in the U.S. Building on this solid platform, Stanton Welch has continued the company’s transformation into what is now"....one of the nation's best ballet companies,"according to the NY Times. A wealth of information about the company can be found on their website: www.houstonballet.org.
Size and Scope
Houston Ballet operates with an annual budget of over $33 million with a company of 60 dancers, 97 full-time staff, 180 production employees and 61 musicians. The current season profile includes seven productions: three full-length narrative works, three mixed-repertory programs and The Nutcracker. Each production is presented for two weeks except for The Nutcracker, which has a five-to-six week run. It is significant that fully half of the company’s (non-Nutcracker) presentations are comprised of mixed-repertory programming. These works exemplify the depth and breadth of this remarkable company which has the ability to move seamlessly from narrative to abstract and from classical to contemporary.
The organization’s endowment now stands at $79 million and it provides $3.8 million to the operating budget each year. A unique element of the company’s operations is The Nutcracker Market, a massive undertaking that supports the company with net proceeds approaching $5 million each year: www.nutcrackermarket.com.
Marketing and Communications Team
There are 13 fulltime members of the marketing and communications team in addition to the Director:
Associate Director of Marketing and PR
Associate Director of Ticketing Services
Marketing and PR Manager
Ticketing Services and Operations Manager
Box Office Managers (two FT, ten PT staff)
Group Sales (two)
Graphic Design Coordinator
Education Marketing & PR Coordinator
Marketing and PR Coordinator (two)
Merchandise and Display Coordinator
Telemarketing is conducted through an outsourced local firm which operates on site. Videography is largely executed inhouse by a member of the department. The internal communications team supports the company’s performances and The Academy; an outside PR firm supports The Nutcracker Market.
Performance Venue and the Houston Ballet Center for Dance
Since 1987, the Ballet’s home performance venue has been The Wortham Theatre in downtown Houston. Houston Ballet and Houston Grand Opera are the two principal resident companies at The Wortham. Most Ballet performances are in the 2,400-seat Brown Theatre. The venue is owned and operated by the City of Houston and operated by Houston First Corporation. The Wortham Theatre is one of several downtown performing arts venues, including The Hobby Center, The Alley Theatre, Jones Hall, and Jones Plaza (an outdoor performance space).
In 2011, the Ballet completed construction on its $46.6 million Houston Ballet Center for Dance, the largest such facility in the country. It is a six-story, 115,000-square foot facility housing nine studios, a multi-use space that can be transformed into a 175-seat performance venue, administrative offices, the Academy, student dormitory, Pilates studio and wardrobe shops. The Center for Dance is connected to the Wortham Theatre via a skywalk. The Houston Ballet Academy boasts over 1,000 students. Its enrollment has more than doubled in the seven years since moving into the new downtown home. The Academy has trained and prepared nearly 57% of the professional company’s dancers.
Stanton Welch, Artistic Director
A native of Melbourne Australia, Stanton Welch has been Houston Ballet’s Artistic Director since 2003. He was already an internationally known and highly sought after choreographer before taking on the position in Houston. In the time he has led the company, he has created 26 new works for Houston Ballet, including a new production of The Nutcracker, which premiered in December 2016. Mr. Welch has created and staged works on other companies as well, including San Francisco Ballet, American Ballet Theatre, The Australian Ballet, Birmingham Royal Ballet, and Royal Danish Ballet.Under his leadership, the company has continued to build on its international repertoire of works by other choreographic luminaries including Ji?í Kylian, Jerome Robbins, John Neumeier, George Balanchine, Christopher Bruce, among many, many others. Mr. Welch’s bio may be found here: https://www.houstonballet.org/explore/artistic-staff/stanton-welch/.
James Nelson, Executive Director
A native of Portland Oregon, James Nelson is now in his seventh season as Executive Director of Houston Ballet. Prior to his role of 12 years as Houston Ballet General Manager,Mr. Nelson was a professional dancer with Cincinnati Ballet, Houston Ballet (1990-96) and Ballet de Santiago. After earning a BBA in finance from University of Houston, he rejoined Houston Ballet as General Manager in 2000, a post he held until becoming Executive Director in 2012. Mr. Nelson’s bio may be found here:
Houston Ballet Foundation is governed by a large (100+) Board of Trustees, including an Executive Committee of 25 trustees, comprised of business and community leaders from across the city.
Houston is one of the most vibrant cities in the United States and is the nation’s fourth largest, with a population of over two million; the metro area has a population of over six million. The Bayou City – the nickname comes from its ten winding waterways – has a storied history as a boomtown as well as being a hub of commerce, arts and culture. If it were an independent country, Houston’s economy would be the 30thlargest in the world. Other than New York, no U.S. city has more Fortune 500 companies. Nonetheless, cost of living is low when compared with other major metropolitan areas – 6% below the national average. Other major arts institutions include Houston Symphony Orchestra, Houston Grand Opera, The Alley Theatre, The Museum of Fine Arts, and The Menil Collection. These and over 500 other arts and cultural organizations have thrived in this extraordinary place. Houston is a restaurant town and its residents eat out more than any other city in the country. It is also one of the youngest cities in the U.S. and its population is highly diverse, with over 145 languages spoken.
Forge effective working relationships with the Executive Director and senior team.
Work closely with the Artistic Director to support the programmatic and aesthetic direction he has established.
Strategic Planning, Analysis and Audience Development
Develop strategic and tactical marketing and communication plans that support Houston Ballet’s overall patron development, including revenue and attendance goals.
Develop and implement methods and procedures for monitoring ROI, reporting, deployment of marketing methodologies, and graphic and brand imagery standards.
Devise and supervise database and market research projects including analysis and interpretation of data for ongoing improvement of marketing plans.
Plan and execute all communications and public relations efforts.
Plan, manage and execute projects with outside consultants that include branding, marketing research, media planning, market segmentation, targeting and pricing strategies.
Define and assess opportunities for development of new and existing audiences.
Monitor cultural trends and peer organizations on a regular basis to identify new opportunities.
Collaborate with the Chief Development Officer and other senior team members to deploy marketing strategies in support of institutional patron development goals.
Hire, supervise, motivate, and support a strong and strategically-focused marketing team including ticketing/customer service, public relations, graphic design, group sales, and telemarketing.
Continually assess departmental capabilities and identify resources for staff development.
Revenue Generation and Expense Management
Plan and execute all subscription renewal / acquisition campaigns and single ticket initiatives, currently generating up to $10 million in revenue annually.
In coordination with the Executive Director and Chief Financial Officer, develop income and expense budgets for Houston Ballet marketing and communication efforts.
Communications, Media / Public Relations, and Branding
Focus on branding Houston Ballet in the marketplace and create new opportunities for visibility.
Coordinate cohesive execution across all communication channels and media.
Collaborates with Chief Development Officer on patron communication.
Direct the development of all visual and print materials and images for the entire organization, maintaining the strength, integrity and consistency of Houston Ballet image.
Establish and implement web development strategies and, in coordination with IT, oversee the development of long-term technology strategies.
Maintain strong and cooperative relationships with other local and national arts organizations.
Develop effective social media programs for the company.
Extremely strong strategic planning and organizational skills evidenced with a proven track record of developing and implementing effective marketing strategies.
A strong knowledge of and commitment to subscription audience development.
Minimum ten years of marketing and audience development experience including subscription and single ticket campaigns in a large performing arts environment. Preference will be given to those with dance organization experience, but this is not a prerequisite.
Demonstrated ability to create, execute and measure successful strategic initiatives.
A keen understanding of marketing principles and analytics.
In-depth knowledge of market dynamics, pricing, statistics, market segmentation, target marketing strategies, tactical execution, brand equity development and planning.
Experience with quantitative analysis and research.
Thorough understanding of institutional marketing and market research best practices.
Experience with and technical knowledge of execution specifics and ROI analytics.
Knowledge of social media platforms and strategies.
Exceptional writing, editing and graphic evaluation skills.
Excellent communication and negotiation skills.
Working knowledge of Word, Excel, and PowerPoint.
Knowledge of Tessitura ticketing software a plus, although not a requirement.
BA Required; MBA preferred.
The following personal attributes will also be considered important:
A collaborative approach.
An active, energetic, and curious mind.
Ability to derive deep satisfaction from facilitating the best work of others.
Compensation, Application Procedure and Start Date
The salary will be competitive with other performing arts organizations of comparable stature and size. Benefits include the following:
Medical/dental/vision/life insurance plans;
403(b) plan with employer contribution;
Paid vacation/holidays/sick leave;
Applicants for this position should provide résumé/CV, cover letter, and at least four professional references. Additionally, a representative sampling of marketing and sales materials should be included (preferably in a single .pdf file). The cover letter of no more than 1½ pages should describe why this post and organization is attractive to the applicant and what about them and their work makes them a potentially strong contributor to Houston Ballet. Application materials should be sent electronically – Word or .pdf only, please – with the applicant’s name included as part of each file name.
Houston Ballet is intent on making a hiring decision by late autumn, with the successful candidate onsite as soon as possible thereafter. Interested candidates, and recommenders of qualified individuals, are invited to contact the consulting firm retained to facilitate this important search:
Management Consultants for the Arts, Inc. (MCA) has specialized in serving the cultural field since 1983 and has had a rich involvement with cultural organizations of all types and sizes throughout the country. Our services include consultations in planning, executive search, organizational analysis, board and staff retreats, and seminar/workshop/conference development and facilitation. In our executive search work, we work on behalf of organizations and recruit CEOs and other senior management personnel, such as external affairs directors, development directors and marketing directors.
We provide these services to a broad range of cultural entities, including art museums, visual arts centers, theatres, dance companies, performing arts centers, historical societies, orchestras, operas, science centers, children's museums, service organizations, public agencies, arts councils and foundations. We have worked extensively with organizations in all stages of development, from new, start-up organizations making the transition from volunteer to professional leadership, to older, established organizations, including those grappling with the complex issues of new leadership following the departure of a founder or long-time leader.
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