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Success Story: Doors Open for Grad Student Using PR Expertise to Spotlight Local Arts Organizations

Kristen Turner (M.A. Arts Leadership ’18) is applying marketing skills to her true passion — classical music.

Many doors have opened for Kristen Turner (M.A. Arts Leadership ’18) over the past 12 months. 

The classically trained vocalist and native Houstonian returned home two years ago in search of the next step in her career. She taught private voice lessons at first, but knew she wanted more. “I felt kind of removed from the music world. I knew I wanted to pursue a career that was closely tied to classical music, but I didn’t know what that would look like” she recalls. As she explored her options in Houston, she discovered the Master of Arts in Arts Leadership program at the University of Houston Kathrine G. McGovern College of the Arts—a relatively new program that focuses on arts administration and management. It seemed like the perfect place to start.

“I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do when I started,” admits Turner. But after talking to the program’s director Fleurette Fernando, a new trajectory emerged. “Fleurette is a great match-maker. I never would have thought of myself as a writer or a publicist, but she pointed me in this direction.”

Turner’s journey into the world of public relations began over the summer when she worked with the Texas Music Festival (TMF), a month-long program that brings rising classical musicians from around the world to the UH campus, as a PR and marketing coordinator for her arts leadership practicum. There, she worked closely with TMF’s director Alan Austin, who continues to be an encouraging mentor and friend. “Alan has been so supportive of me, and I made a lot of connections in the community working at TMF.” 

“Kristen brings her incredible musical knowledge and awareness to the job,” says Austin. “Her passion for the work is clear to everyone who comes in contact with her, and she is an exemplar of the fine new generation of arts leaders that the Arts Leadership program is bringing to Houston.”

TMF wrapped up in at the end of June, but Turner hasn’t slowed down for a moment. Not only has she signed on to return to the festival in 2018, but she is currently serving as the administrative and PR manager for the Apollo Chamber Players, a quartet dedicated to exploring cultural and folkloric influences in classical music, as well as the publicity coordinator for the Bach Society Houston. Working with small organizations gives her a chance to have a hand in everything from social media to donor relations to community outreach. “I wanted to hit the ground running,” she says.

In between classes and her two part-time gigs, Turner posts performing arts reviews on her blog Cocktails at Intermission, which features various local performing arts events and fun “recipes” to go along with them. She launched the blog, in part, to add a personal touch to promoting local performing arts. “I want to celebrate the phenomenal work being done by all these small organizations,” she says, and points to a recent article by Houston CityBook that spotlighted the UH “Fridays at Moores” series as inspiration. “I loved it! That’s the kind of stuff I want to see more of and that’s what I’m trying to do with my blog.”

Turner credits the MAAL program with giving her the resources — and confidence — to thrive in these new roles, including arts writer. “Not only has [the program] helped me get both of my jobs,” she says, “but it’s helped me to be courageous pursuing my passion of keeping classical music alive.”