Igniting the Arts at Penn State: An Interview with C.P.A. Director George Trudeau
By Rachel Reid
What do Wagner’s “Siegfried Idyll” and Ravel’s “Le tombeau de Couperin” have in common? According to George Trudeau, they have the ability to spark a lifelong passion for the performing arts.
After hearing these pieces as a teenager, Trudeau moved his life in a fresh direction and molded the arts into his influential career. As the Executive Director of the Center for Performing Arts at Penn State, Trudeau works at Eisenhower Auditorium and leads many aspects of the organization, including overall administration, educational/community outreach programs, strategic planning, grant management and more.
Trudeau grew up in Portland, Ore., and began his career as a performer and teacher, holding positions in Seattle, Boston and Utica, N.Y. before joining the Center for Performing Arts in 2004. He was attracted to Penn State by the wonderful opportunity to lead an already outstanding and nationally known university-based performing arts center and to significantly advance the organization’s role in academic, campus and community life. The Center for Performing Arts at Penn State strives to enrich the lives of students and the community by hosting a wide variety of inspirational experiences including classical ballets, vocal ensembles, Broadway musicals, world-renowned orchestras and many more.
“College is a time for exploration,” says Trudeau. “Everyone comes here and finds a major to continue on with in the world after they graduate, but college is also about finding things that can enrich your life forever.”
Entering a large university such as Penn State gives endless opportunities for people to open up their horizons and discover new passions. Often general education art, theatre and dance classes require students to see multiple productions in a semester. By connecting artists with people at Penn State, many students may discover a striking new interest in the arts during their time at school.
“One cool thing about being in a university environment is having the students in the audience,” says Trudeau. “They give the audience a sort of jolt because often they’re seeing the work for the first time. It’s fresh, so their reactions are visceral and ‘in the moment’. It reminds everyone else in the audience about their own first time seeing that particular show. And it makes you realize how strong and powerful that connection between artist and audience can be.”
Trudeau continues to emphasize the importance of connecting artists with people, and as the Executive Director of the Center for Performing Arts, he is most passionate about this concept.
“There’s amazing moments that happen every season,” says Trudeau. “We had Jersey Boys here [last fall], and that was exciting because the audience just loved the music and it meant so much to them. Particularly people who remember Frankie Valli when the hits were coming out, so that was like a trip down memory lane for them. That’s why we do what we do.”
The Center for Performing Arts at Penn State has one long-term goal: to make the performing arts be among the top three reasons why students come to Penn State. Although presented with a hefty challenge, Trudeau believes every challenge brings an opportunity. The Center for Performing Arts, as well as the Performing Arts Council on campus, hopes to achieve this goal within a few years.
Creating and supporting a thriving arts environment on campus is a fundamental element for reaching this goal. With over 80 performing arts organizations at University Park, thousands of students share a passion for producing and presenting exciting experiences.
Trudeau’s advice for students aspiring to work in the arts: never forget the artist.
“Keep the artist central to your work as much as you can,” he recommends. “It’s easy to get caught in all the other stuff, like production, marketing, sales, development, raising money – all important – but remember why we do it. We do it because whether it’s a student, faculty member, guest artist that we’re bringing in, it’s allowing them to do what they do best and connect with audiences. It’s the work of the artist that’s most important thing and never forget that.”
Visit the Center for Performing Arts’ website for more information about the organization and upcoming shows at Penn State here: http://www.cpa.psu.edu/.
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