Artist Spotlight: The Many Hats of André Solomon

André Solomon's roles in the Pittsburgh community stretch far beyond that of our Manager of Programs. Before he joined our team, André was an artist member of the Arts Council in the fall of 2019. You might know him for his flute performances, his work with Creative Generation as Community Knowledge Manager, his role leading Make Music Day in Pittsburgh, or even as a friendly face at First Fridays. We hope you enjoy learning about life in music and arts administration for André Solomon.

Andre Solomon Profile
Andre Solomon Profile

You are an artist and administrator of many hats, and Pittsburghers recognize you for a multitude of roles. How would you describe your current work as a musician in particular?

Recognizing that I am a Capricorn, workaholic, and belong within the arts sector, it’s only natural that I am doing the most to thrive and survive. Though I support more sustainable lifestyles compared to the framework of the gig economy (like those that include full-time positions), I enjoy this multipotential lifestyle that allows me to pursue multiple interests.

Upon graduating from the Setnor School of Music at Syracuse University, my trajectory was set to obtain my Masters in Arts Management at Heinz College. However, I did not want my artistic practice as a flutist to suffer. I forced myself to keep a daily practice regime, maintain a social media presence, enroll in lessons, participate in music ensembles (like Carnegie Mellon University’s Chamber and Flute Ensembles and City Flutes), and share resources that pertain to the music community. Being classically trained and a dabbler in jazz, the music community in Pittsburgh allowed me to explore more versatility, as I have stepped into contemporary pieces from the late 20th and 21st century.

To avoid suppressing my music-making to the confines of the practice room, I pushed myself to make recordings, enter competitions and perform in recitals. I challenged myself this past September to host “Enough: Work-In-Progress Recital.” The idea behind this recital was to reject perfection, an impossible state that can dominate the act of performance and lead to insecurity, and instead accept where I am. Even though my perfectionist mindset mulls over mistakes, the feelings of empowerment prevailed as I committed a daring goal.

Currently, I am preparing for a young artist competition with the Central Ohio Flute Association. The preliminary piece is Dahl Variations, variations based on Swedish Melodies. The deadline is in February, so wish me luck and feel free to accompany my journey by following my flute pages on Facebook and Instagram.

Andre Solomon Collage
Andre Solomon Collage

What about as an arts administrator?

As an arts administrator, I currently work at the Greater Pittsburgh Arts Council as the Manager of Programs, and at Creative Generation as the Community Knowledge Manager.

At the Arts Council, I perform a slew of responsibilities. If I were to summarize my work into one word it would be “outreach.” I have managed our COVID-19 Working Groups, as well as the activation of the WolfBrown Audience Outlook Monitor, a tool to help arts organizations understand audiences’ feelings and engagement during and after closures.

I also have supported outreach efforts related to the racial pandemic, including providing resources in multiple Facebook communities and contributing to the creation of the Black Arts Action Committee. (If you are an artist or arts manager that identifies as Black, please join us on December 3rd for Celebrating Black Arts in Pittsburgh, a community discussion centered around Pittsburgh's Black arts community.)

It has been an honor getting to collaborate with artists through our many programs, though the pandemics of 2020 have highlighted the need to evolve administrative systems industry-wide. I hope to elevate our programming to the next level.

At Creative Generation, a capacity building and learning organization, my role has been centered on community voice by elevating knowledge and disseminating it into various communication channels. My intention is to break down and reprioritize the notions of what is deemed valuable in our society, as we all have something important to offer.

During my time at Creative Generation, I have tackled various projects including providing learning opportunities at arts education conferences, facilitating social justice arts education professional development workshops, aiding in content creation for the “We Can’t Go Back” podcast and the “Where Do We Go From Here” reflection on anti-racism in arts and culture, digital learning modules, partnership-led peer research reviews, and the development of a summer residency program.

Many of these projects are ongoing, but I am currently looking forward to working with the Boys and Girls Club of America. We will document knowledge from the Youth Arts Initiative and produce new tools and resources aimed at supporting the growth of creative youth development programs.

Overall, I hope to enforce social justice for the arts; a belief that the arts are not frivolous but a necessary component of human development. Being a minority in the arts world, both as an artist and arts manager, I desire to provide opportunities for people of color to visualize representation; therefore, ownership to actualize their dreams.

As an emerging leader in the local art scene, do you have any advice for young folks doing similar work, or for your younger self? 

First, the arts world can demand a lot of you, being steeped in scarcity. Never lose sight of your worth.

...anyone has the opportunity of creating pathways that cater to the life you want and deserve.

Secondly, for those in my position or choosing this path, please do not lose touch with your art. What grounds us and builds empathy to the artist community is continuing the practice. There are only so many hours in the day, but even five minutes to hone your craft is better than none. Just remember to incorporate moments of fun while being dedicated to the art form.

And finally, a role in arts management can be whatever you want it to be. Do not box yourself into thinking that you must be in marketing or development. As the field expands, you might find yourself as the Director of Community Culture. There are always opportunities to intersect your interests with organizational gaps. Just like myself, juggling two administrative roles and my artistic practice, anyone has the opportunity of creating pathways that cater to the life you want and deserve.

If you could place a massive billboard in Pittsburgh, one that everyone would see, what would you want it to say?

Progress over perfection.