SALT LAKE CITY — Have no fear, Michael Scolamiero is here.
Scolamiero, Ballet West's new executive director, has become known throughout his career for his ability to swoop into an economically struggling arts organization and save the day by helping it become financially strong.
“He builds real trust with people; it’s not sort of a one-time fix or a quick change,” said Michael Kaiser, who led an extensive six-month international search for Ballet West's new executive director. “Ballet West is not in a troubled financial situation, but it has so much potential, and I think he’s going to be able to do similar things for Ballet West.”
Prior to being selected as executive director of Ballet West in September, Scolamiero helped to improve the financial situation of the Pennsylvania Ballet, where he served as executive director for 17 years, as well as that of the Miami City Ballet, where he served as executive director for the past three years.
As executive director of the Pennsylvania Ballet, Scolamiero raised the company's budget from $6.5 million to $11.3 million; led a successful $12 million campaign to boost the company’s size, start an endowment and fund new ballets; and oversaw the planning of a $25 million campaign to fund a new building for the company.
At the Miami City Ballet, he helped the company set records for contributed revenue, reduce debt by more than $2 million and record operating surpluses of $2.6 million in two years.
“I think my role was and continues to be one that I get all the parts working together to enhance fundraising, to build stature in the community, to look at operations in a very pragmatic way and make some tough decisions as to what we can afford or what cannot be afforded,” Scolamiero said.
His financial legacy began during his time as executive director of the Choral Arts Society of Philadelphia, where he worked after graduating with a master's in clarinet performance from Pennsylvania State University and a bachelor's in music education from Lebanon Valley College.
“It was a very small organization that was financially reeling when I got there,” Scolamiero said. “When I left, we had eliminated the debt and the organization was on solid footing.”
He said he is most proud of the artistic growth that resulted from these financial accomplishments, including the Miami City Ballet's tour to the David H. Koch Theater in New York City, as well as the Pennsylvania Ballet's production of Christopher Wheeldon's “Swan Lake” and invitations to the Edinburgh International Festival, National Arts Centre in Ottawa and the Kennedy Center.
“If you’re constantly worrying about how you’re going to pay the bills, it’s very difficult to have a long-term vision for artistic growth,” Scolamiero said. “When you have that stability, it gives leadership an opportunity to really plan and look at milestones that you can work toward that bring the company to the next level.”
The new Ballet West executive director's passion for the arts began at a young age as one of four children in a musical family raised in Pompton Plains, New Jersey.
“My dad, although he was a dentist, he played piano and he taught us piano as children, and that’s where I got the music bug,” Scolamiero said. “I was very involved in music and theater and acting in high school.”
John Miller, chairman of the board at Ballet West, said he thinks Scolamiero will “continue helping Ballet West on its upward trajectory” with his knowledge of the arts.
“That’s not necessarily an executive directors job, but he brings that to the table, as well as great communication and openness, and he’s got plans,” Miller said. “He knows exactly what he’s getting into and where he can take it.”
Kaiser, chairman of the DeVos Institute of Arts Management at the University of Maryland, said he thinks Scolamiero will be an able partner for Adam Sklute, Ballet West's artistic director, in fulfilling his goals for the company.
“I think what he needs is a partner who can see to the administrative functions, the financial functions, fundraising and marketing — those areas outside of the studio,” Kaiser said. “I think Michael will bring the same kind of quality to those areas that Adam brings to the artistic side.”
Scolamiero said he shares Sklute's vision for Ballet West and is excited to be coming to Salt Lake City.
“I love the idea of helping create new work through the funding that’s required and having a fairly firm financial footing to launch new initiatives,” Scolamiero said. “I’m looking forward to not only working at Ballet West but getting to know the Greater Salt Lake community ... and continuing the work that I love, which is in the arts.”