Kennesaw State graduate books gig as Georgia Symphony Orchestra executive director
KENNESAW, Ga. (Jun 3, 2021) — Taylor Rambo is a lifelong musician and performer. While he has always known his career would be in the arts, the Kennesaw State University Master of Business Administration graduate has discovered he prefers to work behind the scenes.
Rambo, who earned his MBA from the Michael J. Coles College of Business in Spring 2021, recently was named executive director of the Georgia Symphony Orchestra. Formed in 1951, the GSO programs live orchestral, choral, and jazz performances at venues across Marietta and Kennesaw and oversees the Georgia Youth Symphony, which includes students from 127 Georgia schools.
Currently serving as incoming executive director before assuming the full role in July, Rambo will be responsible for all administrative functions for the organization, including budgeting, hiring, building donor relationships, and marketing.
“My role is to enable the artistic product to occur financially and logistically,” Rambo said. “Basically, if you wave a baton or play a note, you are not under my purview. Everything else is.”
Music has been a part of Rambo’s life since he was a child growing up in Marietta. He performed in his church youth choir, played trumpet in the Marietta High School and University of Miami marching bands, and performed professionally as a concert pianist with LaTiDo Productions in Washington, D.C.
Rambo majored in music business and entertainment industries at the University of Miami, where he also earned a master’s degree in presenting and live entertainment management. Although an avid performer, Rambo said his passion is in making shows happen rather than starring in them.
“I’ve never wanted to be in the spotlight,” Rambo said, adding that he considers his role similar to piano accompanist. “As an accompanist, you are not the main performer, but you are still making music together with the leading artist. It’s about having the opportunity to be a resource for people who are passionate about performance and making music.”
After leaving the University of Miami, Rambo moved to Washington D.C., and held several administrative positions in the industry, such as development associate for The Washington Ballet and managing director of the American Pops Orchestra. He enrolled in the WebMBA program so he could learn the logistics management and organizational communication skills that fine arts organizations often have to look outside their industry to source.
“We don’t need to wait years for people to leave their careers in business to come into organizations like ours,” he said. “Why not be equipped with those skills ourselves so we can achieve those goals and meet those needs now?”
Rambo quickly began applying his new skills from the MBA program to his career. He used his accounting knowledge at the Arena Stage at the Mead Center for American Theater to better manage incoming donations, and found himself able to keep up with the company’s information technology director thanks to concepts he learned in his information systems classes.
Soon after he joined the Arena Stage as the major gifts and campaign manager, the COVID-19 pandemic sent shockwaves through the performance world as venues across the country closed. Rambo was furloughed and returned home to Georgia to finish his MBA. He also began volunteering with the Georgia Symphony Orchestra, which is how he learned about the executive director search.
“It’s wonderful to see Taylor already leveraging his MBA into an exciting new leadership position,” said Dennis Marrow, Kennesaw State’s executive director of MBA programs. “Taylor has developed a valuable professional toolkit that has helped him find success during a very challenging time for his industry.”
The GSO’s outgoing executive director, Susan Stensland, is retiring after 15 years in the role. She said Rambo is the ideal person to lead the organization.
“Thanks to his diverse skill set in arts administration, coupled with his lifelong love of the performing arts, Taylor brings a great passion to advance our Georgia Symphony Orchestra mission, vision and values,” Stensland said. “We are incredibly excited about the future under his talented leadership.”
Armed with a lifelong passion for music and now a finely tuned business sense, Rambo has set several goals for the GSO, including building their performance audiences and growing youth music education programs. He plans to secure additional funding opportunities like a recent National Endowment for the Arts grant the GSO received to expand their sensory-friendly music and education programs for children with autism.
“I want to find ways to make sure every kid in Georgia has access to music education,” Rambo said.
— Patrick Harbin
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A leader in innovative teaching and learning, Kennesaw State University offers close to 200 undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees to its more than 41,000 students. With 11 colleges on two metro Atlanta campuses, Kennesaw State is a member of the University System of Georgia and the second-largest university in the state. The university’s vibrant campus culture, diverse population, strong global ties and entrepreneurial spirit draw students from throughout the region and from 126 countries across the globe. Kennesaw State is a Carnegie-designated doctoral research institution (R2), placing it among an elite group of only 6 percent of U.S. colleges and universities with an R1 or R2 status. For more information, visit kennesaw.edu.