Jennifer Barlament admits it. She is a big music nerd.
As an Emory Scholar in the early 1990s, the music and physics major spent nearly every weekend attending Atlanta Symphony Orchestra performances on student tickets.
"I'd go with my friends, and we'd talk about the performances on the way home on the shuttle or I'd just go by myself," says Barlament 95C, who joined the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra (ASO) as executive director in January.
"I especially remember a concert with Yoel Levi and guest Romanian pianist Radu Lupu. I was just blown away by the artistry," she says. "It was a memorably transcendent moment among many experiences I had. At Emory, my head was in other things, but my heart was in music."
At the encouragement of her music teachers, Barlament decided to focus on clarinet performance as a career and she went on to graduate school at the Eastman School of Music at the University of Rochester. It was her experience there that changed her course.
Seeing a need for a large orchestra that would help prepare graduate performance students for rigorous professional auditions, she founded the student-run New Eastman Symphony to help provide practical experience, building graduate students' confidence and their repertoires.
"I became more and more fascinated by the process and the things that have to be done to make a concert happen—organizing communications, the venue, the equipment. It was a student ensemble, but we dealt with the same issues a professional orchestra would deal with," Barlament says.
She came to realize that her talents for organization could complement her love of music in the field of orchestra management.
"When I played clarinet, I was one of a hundred voices in the orchestra. It is incredibly thrilling to sit on stage in the midst of an orchestra playing, and I loved it, but I loved the art form as well and I wanted it to continue and thrive," she says.