Take Five with Berkshire Music School's Natalie Johnsonius Neubert
Natalie Johnsonius Neubert, 41, comes to her new job as executive director of Berkshire Music School in Pittsfield with a portfolio that's bursting at the seams with experience in the arts as an administrator, curator and musician (she counts piano and saxophone as her primary instruments). And when she's not raising funds or making music or developing marketing plans, she works as a professional theater sound designer — a field, she will tell you at the drop of a hat, that is woefully underrepresented by women; young women in particular.
She also has been active in the Berkshire community. She was a senior development officer at Shakespeare & Company and has been actively involved with the Berkshire Museum, Community Access to the Arts (CATA), the Lenox Library Association, Berkshire Country Day School, and IS183-Art School of the Berkshires. She is a co-chair of the Berkshire County Development Association and member of Berkshire Business and Professional Women. She lives on a farm in Lenox with her husband, David, and their children, Craig, 9, and Rose, 5.
1. What appealed to you about this job? Why did you apply?
I trained as a classical pianist from the time I was a very young child and have played a variety of instruments over the years. Since then, I have spent the last 20 years of my career working in arts administration moving between curating, fundraising and marketing. When I heard that the executive director position at the Berkshire Music School was available, it felt like the perfect place to merge all those parts of my life. As I looked at the faculty, I saw a wide mix of incredibly talented musicians and was inspired by the different programs that the school could offer to reflect the ever-changing music industry and the evolving needs of Berkshire County residents.
2. What is the role, do you think, of the music school in our community?
We are lucky to live in such a culturally rich community that is blessed with so many world-class arts organizations right here at our doorstep. I am always surprised when people say that they don't feel comfortable at cultural events or that the arts aren't part of their lives. What makes the role of the Berkshire Music School so special — and why it is so important to the fabric of the Berkshires — is that the organization's mission is to foster the love of music in everyone in our community, regardless of someone's age or background. We offer classes in every genre of music and programs designed for people of all experience levels. Whether it's a teenager with aspirations of being a professional musician or a retiree who has always dreamed of playing the guitar, the school meets all our students where they are, bringing joy into their lives through music.
3. What would you like to accomplish at Berkshire Music School? What's your bucket list?
In the coming years, I am committed to further diversifying BMS' programs to reflect all the musical cultures found in Berkshire County. This means collaborating with other local organizations to expand the reach of our private lessons, group classes, performances and lectures to meet the needs and interests of all our constituents.
I firmly believe that access to music and music education is a service that all people benefit from participating in. Research has shown us time and again how important music education is to human development. It increases cognitive skills, teaches focus and determination, relieves stress, grows self-esteem, and the list goes on and on. Most importantly, it brings people together, building a sense of community, and gives us a universal language for expressing ourselves even with those who have very different views and histories than our own. For these reasons, I see the Berkshire Music School as an invaluable resource for Berkshire County. My goal is to remove all the financial barriers that would keep people from participating. While BMS has a scholarship program for students who qualify, there are limited funds available. Ultimately, I would like to increase that pool of support so that we are able to offer all of our programs free of charge to the general public.
4. What is music-making for you? What does it give you?
To me, music is simply an aural expression of emotion or beauty, a reflection of one's spirit. That can take many forms — from recognizable notes and rhythms to unconventional mixes of sounds and recordings from the world around us. In my own work, I tend to use both traditional and non-traditional forms to connect with audiences in ways that aren't possible using language alone.
5. What do you like to do in your off-hours, so-called leisure time?
There's never a dull moment when you work in the arts. In my "free time," I can often be found in the studio working on a sound design project or at one of the various performances around the Berkshires. I spend a lot of time in the summer at Tanglewood with my family. This year, of course, will be different. Since the shelter-in-place started, I have been spending a lot more time outside walking the grounds at The Mount or hiking in the woods behind my house. There is so much music around us in nature, from the bird-songs to the wind in the trees — it's not surprising that so many generations of artists have made their home in the Berkshires.
BMS will be doing a full summer of both online and on-campus small group classes and lessons and for children and adults. Plans for Fall Opening are being developed and will be announced shortly
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