ArtsJournal: Arts, Culture, Ideas

Opening Nights at Florida State University – Executive Director

OPENING NIGHTS is seeking a creative and dynamic individual to serve as its next Executive Director. Reporting to the Office of the President, the Executive Director will be responsible for developing and implementing the strategic direction, programming, and management of Opening Nights. As a leader in the community, the Executive Director will provide vision for the future of Opening Nights and will be passionate about providing excellence in performance arts at Florida State University.

The Executive Director is responsible for the design, execution, strategy, supervision, and administration of Opening Nights at Florida State University. The Executive Director will serve as the primary resource for professional arts presentation at the university, while working collectively with key university stakeholders and the community on collaborative events, performances, and education endeavors.

The Executive Director will be responsible for the leadership and delegation of staff and other key stakeholders. They will be responsible for the successful management of daily affairs, events and performances contained in the season’s offerings.

As the face of Opening Nights in the community, the Executive Director will cultivate new and existing donors and patrons to enhance, support and elevate the mission, vision, and priorities of both the organization and Florida State University.

The Executive Director will create, implement, manage, and oversee events, performances, marketing, policies, procedures, and best practices for fundraising and donor relations relating to the performing arts series, while supporting the academic vision and priorities of the university.

The Executive Director will be accountable for the formulation and administration of the annual operating budget of the performing arts series, ensuring expenditures are in-line with resources, and achieving an appropriate balance between earned revenue and contributed income through fundraising.

This is an exciting and unique opportunity for an experienced and creative professional, who can bring together their vision, leadership, and passion in alignment with the mission of Opening Nights, for a wide range of artistic and community endeavors. The Executive Director will want to invest themselves in the success and growth of Opening Nights and will find personal fulfillment in being part of an exciting artistic future at FSU.

“We all hope that our Seminoles football team reaches the championship, but every year we have a championship season with Opening Nights.” Ron Sachs, Development Council Chair

The Organization

Performing arts presenting at Florida State began in 1921 with the creation of the Florida State College for Women Artist Series. The inaugural concert of the series was by composer and bandleader John Philip Sousa, and throughout the years world-class talent flocked to campus to perform – including modern dance pioneer and choreographer Martha Graham, cello virtuoso Pablo Casals, bandleader and pianist Count Basie, and the Metropolitan Opera National Touring Company.

In 1968, Florida State President John Champion enhanced the Artist Series by creating the Florida State University Fine Arts Festival, which presented the Artist Series’ international and national talent alongside faculty and student performances, encompassing the entire month of February. The Artist Series and Fine Arts Festival continued in some capacity until the end of the 1991 Spring Semester. After taking office as President of Florida State University in 1994, Sandy D’Alemberte reached out to former Florida State presidents and first ladies, asking “What was your greatest accomplishment as President?”. The Champions’ answer was resoundingly the “Fine Arts Festival,” which implored President D’Alemberte to reinstate performing arts presenting on campus. Thus, the inaugural season of Seven Days of Opening Nights took place in February 1999.

Arts education is at the core of Opening Nights’ mission. Opening Night’s goal is to provide meaningful artistic and professional experiences to students on and off Florida State University’s campus, including providing master classes, lectures, and question-and-answer sessions for students by visiting artists and performers. These educational opportunities are free to students and provide invaluable, face-to-face experiences.

Since its inaugural festival seasons, Opening Nights has evolved into an annual series of performances that occur from the fall to the spring, drawing a curated, lauded selection of artists to Florida State’s campus year after year. Opening Nights continues to bolster its programs, arts education, and entertainment options for the community.

The Mission

The mission of Opening Nights at Florida State University is to present compelling and distinguished artists who provide extraordinary experiences that educate, inspire, and connect diverse audiences on and off campus.

Education & Outreach

“Opening Nights in Class” provides the FSU campus and the Big Bend area of Florida with educational and engaging cultural performing arts opportunities for students, educators, and residents to enjoy while learning, exercising creativity, and encouraging achievement.

The series of educational programs provide unique experiences through school performances, master classes and workshops with world-renowned performers. During the past four years, Opening Nights in Class has reached approximately 20,000 students from K-12 schools in Leon, Wakulla, Gadsden, Jefferson, and Bay counties, as well as dozens of campus and community partners.

During the 2020-21 Season, two programs with Black Violin and Royce Lovett were recorded and distributed virtually to students because of the COVID-19 pandemic and schools not having field trips or visiting artists on their campuses.

Opening Nights in Class helps FSU students focus their ambitions, unleash new talents, and cultivate broader perspectives for their lives after they matriculate from FSU. To that end, Opening Nights has created access for students in the Honors Program, CARE Students, as well as those enrolled in courses where artists present in-depth master classes or survey discussions on their culture.

In addition, Opening Nights works with The Boys and Girls Clubs of the Big Bend by offering various educational programs and inviting them to on-campus performances.

Florida State University and Tallahassee

Florida State University (FSU) is one of the nation’s elite research universities, and preserves, expands, and disseminates knowledge in the sciences, technology, arts, humanities, and professions, while embracing a philosophy of learning strongly rooted in the traditions of the liberal arts and critical thinking. FSU’s welcoming campus is located on the oldest continuous site of higher education in Florida, in a community that fosters free inquiry and embraces diversity, along with championship athletics, and a prime location in the heart of the state capital.

Tallahassee’s welcoming residents, canopied roads and moss-draped oaks prove that Florida’s Capital City is a pretty and unexpected destination. Arts, culture, and heritage define the community, from galleries and historic sites to classical or quirky performances, music festivals, live entertainment of the bold and sometimes subtle artistic accents found everywhere. It is a destination with rich historical roots woven into its core, with an array of museums and historic sites each offering a glimpse into the lives that shaped Tallahassee. With over 700 miles of trails filled with natural wonders and beauty, an ever-evolving dining scene, historic landmarks, family-friendly activities and more, it’s easy to see why Tallahassee is a desirable destination.


Reporting to the Office of the President, the Executive Director is responsible for the overall vision and operations of the organization, and is responsible for:

Programming and Strategic Planning

  • Oversee all activities within Opening Nights, maintaining an overall vision for quality programs that reflect positively on the Opening Nights’ brand.
  • Cultivate relationships with agents, artists, and community groups to ensure a supportive environment that encourages their continued connection with Opening Nights.
  • Partner with producers and presenters to bring a wide selection of entertainment and educational programs to FSU, while collaborating with FSU Colleges to create synergies and support mutual goals.
  • Plan, schedule, contract, and evaluate a diverse array of programming activities.
  • Develop, implement, and continue to update a strategic plan for Opening Nights, consistent with the FSU strategic plan, articulating mission, values, and goals as the foundation for programming, education, and future planning.
  • Continually reinforce a business model that generates a substantial portion of Opening Night’s revenue from operating as an effective presenter.

Institutional Visibility and Community Relations

  • Act as the public face and voice of Opening Nights, providing leadership locally, regionally, and nationally in the broader arts and cultural community on behalf of Opening Nights and FSU.
  • Develop substantial ties to the university and other leaders in the community.
  • Work collaboratively with the Foundation, the University’s Advancement/Development Office, Opening Nights Volunteers, and principal university stakeholders to extend Opening Nights’ reach into communities of potential influence, support, and need.
  • Proactively engage in the writing of grants to Foundations, Government, and other sources
  • Advocate for and engage with the regional arts and culture community, identifying opportunities for collaboration and partnership while cultivating and maintaining strong working relationships with faculty and university departments, with the goal of increasing campus and community involvement.
  • Devise and execute strategies to identify stakeholders and define how key messages will be delivered in order to maximize visibility, brand, and broader and deeper community participation in Opening Nights’ programs.

Fiscal Management and Operations

  • Lead the day-to-day operations of Opening Nights to ensure audiences, artists, donors, volunteers, staff, vendors, partners, and other stakeholders have an exceptional experience every time they interact with the organization.
  • Carefully manage Opening Nights growth and financial resources in order to protect its stability and maintain an ongoing balanced budget.
  • Create a positive and rewarding work environment in order to attract and retain skilled employees.
  • Facilitate programs and activities to meaningfully engage and recognize volunteers.
  • Ensure a focus on facility and equipment maintenance and improvement, safety management, environmental policy, and contractual compliance.
  • Confirm that organizational policies, systems, controls, and procedures are in alignment with Opening Night’s mission and values and are regularly reviewed for efficiency and effectiveness.
  • Acquiring the knowledge of and ability to interpret and apply related local, state, and federal laws, ordinances, rules, and regulations
  • Proactive Regular Relationship with Florida State University
  • Build knowledge of the principles, practices, and acceptable techniques of coordinating fundraising and development activities in coordination with the applicable Florida State University Foundation Staff.
  • Build knowledge of and the ability to interpret and apply related university policies, procedures, principles, and practices.

The Ideal Candidate will be:

Collaborative, proactive, dynamic, self-motivated, detail and people-oriented, the Executive Director will have exceptional artistic, management, social and verbal communication skills and value frequent interaction and collaboration with others. The Executive Director will be an experienced and entrepreneurial professional with the vision to actively pursue Opening Nights’ goals with creativity and determination and will have a high degree of personal accountability with a commitment to exceeding expectations.

This individual will balance tasks and projects with a sense of urgency and possess superlative interpersonal and communication skills that articulate compelling verbal and written messages for support. A self-sufficient and self-managed professional with a highly organized strategic approach, the Executive Director will have the ability to achieve organizational objectives with artists, staff, university leadership, volunteers, donors, and prospective supporters. This individual will bring a passion for Opening Nights’ vision, mission, and values, with the ability to bring those to reality, and a commitment to positively impact the organization’s long-term success.

Key Traits and Characteristics of the role include:

  • Leadership, Creativity & Innovation – Organizing and influencing people to believe in a vision while creating a sense of purpose and direction, while creating innovative approaches, programming, process, technologies, and/or systems to achieve the desired result.
  • Diplomacy – Effectively and tactfully handling difficult or sensitive issues.
  • Interpersonal Skills & Teamwork – Effectively communicating, building rapport, and relating well to many different people.
  • Negotiation & Decision Making – Listening to many points of view and facilitating agreements between two or more parties while being able to analyze all aspects of a situation to make consistently sound and timely decisions.
  • External Stakeholder Focus – The dexterity to anticipate and exceed stakeholder expectations.
  • Problem Solving & Futuristic Thinking – Defining, analyzing, and diagnosing key components of a problem to formulate a solution and the ability to imagine, envision, project, and/or create what has not yet been actualized
  • Project Management – Identifying and overseeing all resources, tasks, systems, and people to obtain results.


Qualified Candidates should possess a Master’s Degree and five years of experience or a Bachelor’s Degree and seven years of related experience in an executive, management, leadership position related cultural arts field, including a strong understanding of programming genres and fundraising experience, with increasing responsibility in leadership roles in a performing arts center, arts and culture organization, education, or the non-profit sector. Superior written/verbal communication skills and experience collaborating with high-level, respected volunteers are required.

Candidates must possess expertise in and willingness to mentor and develop team members to create a high performing team.

Opening Nights offers a competitive salary commensurate with experience. In addition, FSU offers a robust Total Rewards package. Visit FSU’s website to learn more about Compensation, Benefits, Wellness, Recognition, and Employee Development programs.

Application Instructions

The Opening Nights Executive Director Search is led by Martin Bragg, Nicola Dawes and Sarah Geddes of Martin Bragg & Associates. To apply, please email your letter of interest and resume in Word or PDF format to Martin Bragg & Associates at Please indicate Opening Nights Executive Director Search in the subject line of the email. No phone calls please. The deadline for application is August 2, 2024, at 5:00 pm and the review of applications and preliminary interviews will begin immediately. Candidates are encouraged to apply as soon as possible.

In accordance with the State of Florida’s open records laws, all nominations, applications, and letters of interest are publicly available. All applicants will receive an acknowledgement of their application and will be asked to complete FSU’s voluntary Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) Applicant survey.

FSU is an Equal Opportunity/Access/Affirmative Action/Pro Disabled & Veteran Employer. FSU’s Equal Opportunity Statement can be accessed at:


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