Posts Tagged ‘Coming Out’

An Outstanding Millennial Community Leader

Jackson Cooper, Executive Director, Chamber Music Raleigh. Photo courtesy of Curtis Brown Photography

As a diversity and career development consultant, one of the most interesting areas is generational diversity in the workplace. So often, older generations stereotype millennials (generally now in their 20s) as entitled and spoiled, unwilling to work hard. But instead, millennials should be seen as creative, looking for purpose and personal growth in their work, and for hand-on managers who act as coaches. (see my recent blog “What Millennials REALLY want in the workplace.”) And we even saw in the recent season of one of my favorite TV reality shows, Survivor – GenX vs Millennials, that the Millenials held their own and were creative and determined in winning many of their challenges.

Locally I know an outstanding young millennial, Jackson Cooper, who at age 22 is believed to be the youngest executive director of a performing arts organization in the country. I recent sat down for a discussion with Jackson.


STAN: You are currently the Executive Director of Chamber Music Raleigh. Can you tell me a little more about this group and your responsibilities?

JACKSON: Chamber Music Raleigh is a 75 year old presenting organization, meaning that we invite groups from all over the state and world to come and perform on our concert series. We have two concert series: the ‘Guild” series that features artists from all over the country and world (groups like the Harlem Quartet, Juilliard, Chamber Society of Lincoln Center) and our “Sights and Sounds” series which highlights emerging and established North Carolina artists.

One of the first things I have done in my job is to establish the North Carolina Museum of Art as our permanent home for presenting these concerts. This further deepens our relationship with the Raleigh community by presenting our series at a central, public space like the museum. It also allows for exciting collaborations which we have plans for in coming seasons!

As ED, I am responsible for maintaining the day-to-day operations of the organization. I am a staff of one, with the help of volunteers and my dedicated board. I maintain donor relations, write grants, help facilitate decisions about the coming seasons, prepare contracts, and a slew of other responsibilities.

Jackson mingles with constituents at a Museum of Arts gala, sharing about Chamber Music Raleigh future plans and their move to the museum. Photo courtesy of : Joseph Rafferty


STAN: How did you get interested in this type of work?

JACKSON: I grew up in Raleigh arts, working in internships since I was 13 years old, specifically in arts administration. I used to go to school until 3pm, drive to an internship and work till 6, eat dinner, then sometimes go rehearse a show. I was lucky enough to have several mentors early on (still do) who pushed me to work hard and translate this passion and excitement I had for working in the arts into results.

However, the stereotypical gypsy / freelance lifestyle of an artist never appealed to me. I still keep up with my various crafts and have been lucky to always be working on projects, but I like stability too much to be a freelancer my entire life. I still do believe an arts manager should also be an artist (though, I’ve learned recently from example that the opposite isn’t always true). But you should practice an art if you are a manager. It grounds you and solidifies your work on a deeper level.

I love making connections, connecting artists and people, communities and works of art, etc. I’m still growing and acknowledge that, and every day feels like a new adventure.


STAN: What essential skills do you bring to your job that you believe will help you succeed?

JACKSON: Early on, I recognized that initiative and passion go a long way. I have encountered quite a bit of push back about how young I am. People didn’t think it was possible for someone so young and enthusiastic about the field he was working in to do a good job.

So, I began to hone my skills so that I could prepare myself for leading effectively. I wanted to show people that I had learned the importance of Big Picture Thinking and Day-To-Day Thinking, Planning for Long-Term Success and Last Minute Disasters, and the power of the grace note. By that I mean, the power of following up with your audience, community members, and others who are important to you or your organization. In this age of hyper-behavior, people like it when you remember their birthday, send a Christmas card, or just say thank you. Kindness goes a long way. And no matter how busy you are, you always have time to tell someone “I hope you’re having a good day.”


STAN: Where do you see yourself career wise 10 or 15 years down the road? What are your aspirations?

JACKSON: I hope to hold an upper level artistic position at an arts organization. I am currently looking into graduate programs and Executive Leadership programs at Harvard Business School and Duke University for furthering my education. Eventually, I would like to open my own arts consulting firm or work for one.

I plan to continue giving back to my community by serving on community boards, volunteering, and donating. In my (little) spare time I write so I am hoping to publish more. I have a book coming out early next year, and hopefully it’s the first of many!


STAN: In addition to being the youngest ED of a performing arts group in the country, you are also an out gay man. What encouragement would you provide to your LGBT peers in terms of their future or career?

JACKSON: Don’t ever stop being yourself and put yourself in everything you do. Every day you make a decision about coming out. To do that, you have to be confident in yourself and stand up for you. You are all you have in this life so why waste it pretending to be something you’re not?

There will always be people better than you, there will always be better jobs out there that you can’t have at this moment–but if you let things that aren’t in your control get you down, nothing will ever make you happy. And always listen to that little voice in the back of your head. It knows things better than you do.


STAN: Is there anything else you would like to share with my blog readers?

JACKSON: Chamber Music Raleigh is now at the Museum of Art so come by and pick up a brochure or subscribe to our mailing list at chambermusicraleigh.org. We are about to announce our exciting 2017-2018 season.


STAN: Thank you, Jackson! I look forward to building our friendship, following your career and reading your first book when it comes out.

Five Important Ramifications of NBA Pro Basketball Player Jason Collins’ Coming Out

… And also I recognize Women’s Basketball super-star Brittany Griner below.

Major LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender) news was made last month when Jason Collins became the first

Jason Collins became the first active athlete among the four major US pro sports to come out as gay via a recent online Sports Illustrated article

Jason Collins became the first active athlete among the four major US pro sports to come out as gay via a recent online Sports Illustrated article

active (non-retired) professional among the major four American Men’s pro sports (Baseball, Basketball, Football, Hockey) to come out publically as a gay man. Link to the Sports Illustrated online article. There was a major media flurry, and like always I like to wait for a month for the hoopla to die down so I can offer an additional thoughtful analysis. Here are my five hopeful long term ramifications of Jason’s coming out:

1. This sends the strong message to our LGBT youth that they can become anything they want and have the talent to do. LGBT youth do not need to be “pigeon holed” into careers stereotypically attributed to gay men and lesbians, but instead can pursue any career they want, including pro sports. And perhaps some day we will have a gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender President of the United States!

2. This could help curb gay bullying and gay bashing. Bullies should think twice about picking on an LGBT person; perhaps their gay 7 foot tall, 240 pound muscular friend will come to their bullied victim’s defense. Not all gay guys are 120 pound slim guys. See link to my most recent blog on bullying which contains additional links to blogs and resources.

3. This will help pro sports become much more open to full acceptance of LGBT diversity, and perhaps significantly decrease homophobia in pro sports. The younger generation can aspire to play in pro leagues and also be out and true to their LGBT selves.

This year's first WNBA's draft pick Brittney Griner recently came out as a lesbian.  Here she is cutting down the nets after leading Baylor to their 2012 championship

This year’s first WNBA’s draft pick Brittney Griner recently came out as a lesbian. Here she is cutting down the nets after leading Baylor to their 2012 championship


4. Since Jason Collins is African-American, it helps dispel the myth that homosexuality is a “white person’s thing.” LGBT people are found across all segments of humanity. See also my last month’s blog on 5 Common Misconceptions about Gay People.

5. Finally, this breaks the gay male stereotype of all gay men being feminine and small. The LGBT community is extremely diverse with a wide range of gender expressions, shapes and sizes.

I would like to close this article with a call out to a female basketball star who recently came out as a lesbian; Brittany Griner, who led Baylor to the 2012 Women’s NCAA championship and was this year’s first draft pick in the WNBA draft. Link to the article about Brittany.

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