Ingrid Keller ’04: Bringing Music to Many Ears
For Ingrid Keller ’04, spreading the joy of music around her community is not only part of her job, it is her passion. Keller was recently named the Executive Director of the Western Piedmont Symphony in Hickory, North Carolina, after working as the Executive Director of the Newton- Conover Auditorium in Conover, North Carolina.
Keller is a renaissance woman, to say the least, and she brings a wealth of education, experience and love of music to her newest opportunity with the Western Piedmont Symphony. After graduating from SMC in 2004, she moved on to complete a B.A. in communications from Elon University and a master of arts degree in arts administration and cultural policy from the University of London. After graduating from Elon in 2007, Keller moved to Seoul, Korea to teach English, drama and music to students ranging from 16 months to 65 years old! Beginning in 2011, while earning her master’s in London, she worked for the Donmar Warehouse Theatre and Handel House Museum.
If you have ever questioned the value of a liberal arts education, just spend a few hours with the multitasking Ms. Keller. While there is no typical day in the office, she spends each one tackling a very diverse list of tasks. Being the “face” of the symphony in the community, one of her main responsibilities is managing fundraising efforts for the nonprofit organization. She plans local events, writes grant proposals and makes sure to network closely with charities and foundations that can be of great financial support. In addition to covering the symphony’s operating expenses, Keller uses the raised funds to collaborate with local schools, colleges and arts organizations to bring the arts to people in a 10-county community. “Are we meeting the needs of the public? Are we bringing the arts to people in new and unique ways?” she asks. With programs like Summer Pops: Symphony Under the Sails, Soup Salad & Strings and The Western Piedmont Youth Symphony, Keller is hoping to provide music programs for all ages and families.
Keller graduated from Maiden High School in Maiden, North Carolina. Being the daughter of a Methodist minister and heavily involved in the Methodist church, Keller was attracted to SMC as one of her college options. She was offered a substantial academic scholarship and the opportunity to join the cheerleading squad (Go Pioneers!), so she accepted the offer and started her college career at SMC. In addition to cheering, Keller took private piano lessons and was very active with the Theatre Department, Student Ambassadors and Pioneer Peers. She managed a busy activities and volunteer schedule while earning a communications degree in broadcast and new media. Small classes and close relationships with professors, in her opinion, created a strong educational environment. “Every teacher knew my name, and I wasn’t a number.”
How did SMC help Keller get where she is today? She attributes her success to a nurturing faculty and a campus community that encouraged her to get involved. “There is so much to do. It is out there. You just have to take advantage of the opportunities,” says Keller. She is particularly grateful for the folks who encouraged her love for the arts. Kent Newberry, her Theatre instructor, encouraged her to be a leader on stage. “I received the SMC Players MVP Award.” Keller also remembers fondly her time with Susan Davis, her piano instructor at SMC. “When I was working with her, I practiced more than I had ever practiced in my life!”
Keller’s fondest memories are those of times with her SMC friends. “One day, we randomly organized a campus-wide game of hide-and-seek,” she remembers. “Around 150 students showed up, and we hid all over campus.” Keller says she was blessed beyond measure during her time at SMC. “I made great friends. I keep in touch with my SMC friends more than most others.”
So what would this accomplished Pioneer tell future SMC students? “I would tell them what my father told me: college is what you make of it.” Keller continues, “Seek out opportunities. There is plenty to do! Spartanburg Methodist has everything you could ever want in a college.” Keller has one more bit of advice, a lesson she learned as a result of struggling in Cultural Anthropology class. After she gave it her all, she realized in the end that it wasn’t a good fit for her. Keller says she hopes that young people realize, “There are all sorts of directions our lives can take. Just because you may change your path along the way doesn’t mean you have failed.”
Today, as the Executive Director of a nonprofit organization, Keller describes what it takes to get the job done.
“You have to have a professional presence. You must articulate clearly the mission of the organization to the community. Most important of all is passion. You have to believe in what you are doing.”
Keller is certain that her beginnings at SMC helped foster these qualities and mold her into the person, musician and professional she is today.