August 20, 2015
Name: Thomas Leslie
Occupation: Executive Director of the Canadian International Organ Competition (CIOC)
Location: Montréal, Québec
First Job: Tenor soloist at St. John’s United Church in Halifax.
Best Job: My current job.
Greatest Professional Challenge: Delegating important tasks and then forcing myself to let my delegates run with the file and refrain myself from shadowing the work too closely.
So how did you get this awesome gig anyways? I was nearing the end of my Executive MBA program and looking for a new challenge. I saw the advertisement for the CIOC job, but didn’t plan to apply because I didn’t think that I had enough professional experience. A friend of mine encouraged me to apply a few days before the deadline, so I ended up putting together my application file in my hotel room in Rimouski (QC) where I was singing the Mozart Requiem with Orchestre symphonique de l’Estuaire.
What do you like best about what you do? Meeting many talented and successful people from all over the world.
Any special skills required? In order to run an arts organization (or any other corporation for that matter) successfully, you really need to have a good understand of everything that goes on in your business. Strong financial and analytic acumen, planning and organizational skills are absolutely essential, but at the end of day people are the most important and most valuable aspect of any enterprise. I think having strong communication skills and great people skills are probably the key to long term success.
Favourite experience on the job: Getting positive feedback from our competitors, jury members and supporters.
Advice for people who want your awesome gig: I think that I tend to employ about an 80/20 split between my businessman and artistic backgrounds. 80% of my job performance needs to be firmly rooted in the management/leadership/analytical/critical-thinking aspects of show business. No matter how passionate you are about the arts, you really need to develop a business background before taking on the rewarding challenge of arts administration. That being said, the 20% of my job that calls for artistic sensitivity is absolutely essential and is often linked to the most satisfying parts of the job.
Favourite Canadian music venue: Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts in Toronto for both a night at the opera or the ballet!
Favourite record at the moment: The London Symphony Orchestra recording of Mendelssohn’s 2nd Symphony (Lobgesang) with Claudio Abbado on Deutsche Grammophon. I sang a tenor aria excerpt a few weeks ago, and discovered the work in its entirety through this wonderful recording. I don’t know why it’s not performed more often!