Owner, The Mobtown Ballroom
Tell us a bit about your job (e.g. what kinds of things you’re working on, what types of problems you solve day to day, etc.)?
I run a live entertainment and dance venue with a tidy little cocktail bar. We specialize in jazz, but host events ranging from weddings to political fundraisers. I have to negotiate daily, read contracts, and hire and manage our staff. I try to maintain a solid relationship with our customers through social media, special events, working the room--that kind of thing. We depend on people making this into a second home, and that means we participate in Baltimore City politics and activism. These things matter objectively, but they also matter to our customers and to the community we work in, so we work hard to stay abreast of the movements for social justice and change in Baltimore. Over the years, this job has turned into a complicated, many-headed beast. It is challenging, fast-paced, and often hilarious. It asks a lot of me. I work with talented artists regularly, and always get to see something new.
How do you think your humanities education has influenced/advanced your career path?
My humanities education at the UW kept me tethered to the arts in some fashion throughout my adult life. After spending so much time tangling with the classics, I knew on a deep level that a job that wasn't connected to art and creativity would be unsuitable for me. That's a scary thing to realize, but it was also liberating, and my background really did inspire me to think in different ways and to work my way around a lot of roadblocks. It's not that I didn't have a rough couple years serving chicken wings after graduation--I did--but even in that context it seemed to me like the ability to read and to look helped prepare me for what I do now. I discovered that professional contacts, far from scorning my degree, found it refreshing to work with someone with a broad view and zeal for all kinds of knowledge. Beyond that, I think the humanities keep you alive, keep you nimble, and keep you sane. All of that matters in your career. I know what happens to a lot of the people who have been tricked into thinking there's a paint-by-numbers shortcut to career and money. They achieve some financial success, look around them in their 30s, and freak out. Nothing has prepared them for the complexity of life, love, children, death. Security without meaning is terrifying. It has been one of the great pleasures of my life to find that a lot of these people seek out my business as a place where they can re-engage with art and people, a place where they can be human again. Professionally speaking--and I say this as someone well outside of academia or education--the humanities have given me everything.