Venue Manager/Booking Agent: Enoch Morris, Juanita K. Hammons Hall for Performing Arts, Springfield, Missouri
Below is the results of an interview between Stacy Garner, an Entertainment Management student at Missouri State University and Enoch Morris, the Executive Director of the Hammons Hall from Performing Arts. The interview was conducted in the fall of 2001.
SG: Can you describe a typical day/week for you?
EM: Right now, we have about nine performances to do in a period of seven days. Our busiest months are October, November, December, and then again in February and March. So we are right in the middle of the busy season. On top of making sure the shows booked a year ago are being put on smoothly, I am in the process of booking shows for next year, the year 2003, and even some shows for 2004. A lot of my job is multitasking. I kind of serve as a facilitator to everyone else. I book the shows, and the technical crew takes care of their part, the marketing does their part, and so on. One of my main things is asking these other departments, “What can I do to make your job better?” I deal with problems in the box office and problems with tickets and I deal with a lot of promotions.
SG: What type of personality would you say would be a benefit to someone looking for a job in Venue Managing?
EM: Right off, a person has to have good communication skills. They have to be able to communicate with the people they will be dealing with. Along with communication, you need to be personable. If a person sees that you are interested in helping them, they will be more interested in helping you.
SG: If you were to hire someone for your position, what qualifications would you specifically look for?
EM: The person would definitely have to have an arts background. Either performing or any other type. A person applying for this position should have a passion for the arts. If you don’t love what you are working for, you are not going to have fun at your job. Also, not knowing what type of shows you want to book makes it harder to book good shows.
Another good qualification to have behind you is a broad-based education. Knowing the art side of the business will get you far but you need to have a little knowledge of business. That part is easy to learn, but it still helps. A little knowledge of the different types of shows you book would also come in handy. Also, it would be hard to hire someone into my position if they had no previous experience. At least five to ten years experience would be good for someone to coming into my position without being here first.
SG: What types of education would you suggest someone taking to get where you are now and are there any special skills or qualifications that would benefit someone in this field?
EM: Like I said earlier, a broad education would be good for someone wanting to go into this particular area. I started out wanting to be a lawyer, so I was taking a lot of boring classes. I took a theater class and loved it. I felt comfortable there and I felt like I belonged there. One class turned into another, and then I took another and I added a theater minor that later changed into a theater major. I wanted to be a performer and that got old so I decided I still wanted to stay in the business. Like before, communication is a key to this field and passion. You need to enjoy what you are doing.
SG: What are some pros and cons to your job?
EM: Meetings and tough contract negotiating are not things I enjoy doing. I do them because its part of the job, but they aren’t fun. Dealing with people in general is a plus, and I like to see the reaction from the audience. I would almost rather watch the audience watch, than watch the show. When people are enjoying themselves, it makes my job that much better. Some of the perks are being able to see the shows, meet the performers, and develop relationships with people from all over.
SG: Do you do all the booking?
EM: I do ALL the booking!
SG: How do you decide what acts you bring to the Hall?
EM: First, you need to make sure you have a balanced series of artists. If we were to book all pop/rock acts, we would be known as a Rock House and not a Performing Arts Venue. You need to make sure you are booking acts that are going to reach out to different people and their different likes and dislikes. For example, for Hispanic Heritage month, we booked the Ballet Gran Folklorico de Mexico to give the Hispanic community an educational insight into their heritage. We will do the same during Black History Month.
In order to get a variety of acts; I do a lot of networking. I will call agents and get their act’s information, but most of the time they will find me. Agents will send me press packets. These packets include things on the artists like past reviews, articles, a CD if they have one, a picture of the group, a summary of what they are about, and so on. Because we are located in SMSU, most of our programs are education related. Before almost every show, there will be a professor or a professional from the show do a short lecture on what the audience is about to see. We look for shows that have educational value. I like to think of the Hall as “the biggest classroom in Springfield.”
SG: For a Venue Director, what is an approximate salary?
EM: The salary can range anywhere from $50,000 to $150,000. It really depends on the size of your venue and your market. It just really depends on where you want to go.
SG: How would you compare your facility to that of say the Fox in St. Louis?
EM. The Fox has almost twice the amount of seating that we have, but we do bring in a lot of the same acts. They do bring in acts that we normally couldn’t bring in, like The Phantom of the Opera. I think they’ve brought them in two or three times now. We have a smaller target market to work with than they do. They seem to go with a lot of “on the road” shows, where we may not focus on that as much.
SG: And for my last question, what advice would you give someone coming into your area of work?
EM: The most important thing is to be passionate about what you do. By being excited and energetic about your job makes it so much better.