When Matt Cadman was in college, a professor told him that the art of teaching was like great theater. It’s a lesson he has never forgotten.
After 34 years of teaching, Cadman took over the reigns of the Performing Arts Center of Wenatchee as its executive director this past week. He stopped by the office to talk about the the joys of teaching and the challenges of the job ahead.
This third-generation Wenatchee native, who has distinguished himself on the stage as well as the classroom, certainly has a big job to do. Little over a year ago, the PAC was in a desperate financial condition when Rita Brown took over and made significant strides in getting the organization back on track. She resigned late last year to deal with health issues. Now it’s up to Cadman to help finish the job of transforming the PAC into what he calls the “crown jewel” of the valley’s arts venues.
“I love teaching... I was born to be a teacher,” Cadman said. It was developing relationships with students and finding ways to make subjects interesting that fired his passion for the work, although he described it as a mission rather than a job.
While he excelled as a teacher, he also cultivated his passion for acting. He and his wife Camille returned to the valley in 2000 in time for him to perform in Music Theater of Wenatchee’s performance of Annie at the PAC. He performed in several other musicals and directed Jesus Christ Superstar.
He intends to bring those experiences to bear on the unique challenge of leading the PAC. He sees the opportunity as getting the community to buy into the vision of the PAC as a unique place for performance and for community. Cadman envisions the place being like the television show Cheers — where everyone knows your name and experience great performances at reasonable prices.
The importance of engaging people effectively that helped him succeed as a teacher is every bit as important in working with staff, volunteers, the board of directors and sponsors. “The relationship comes first and everything else, including money, follows,” said Cadman. That will translate into two primary objectives: “Every show sponsored. Every seat filled,” Cadman said.
His commitment to the PAC is unqualified. He puts it this way: “I’m all in.” The risks of moving from a stable job in education where he excelled to the more risky and uncertain world of nonprofits is not lost on him. He’s the first to admit that he could fail at this new role, although no one else I’ve talked to harbors any such views, but he told me he’s determined to “dare greatly” in this position.
Cadman sees this as a big opportunity to make a difference in the community. Last week was Cadman’s first week on the job and he had three events — two Jazz Workshop performances and Pride and Prejudice. Huckleberry Finn is up next at the theater.
While he loved teaching, the possibility of making a lasting difference with the PAC enticed to make a career change at 58 years old.
He looks at it as a natural next step in his life. “Here’s a chance to be able to combine passion for my town, kids and my love of theater,” said Cadman.
If you’d like to see my video interview with Cadman, log onto Wenatcheeworld.com and click on videos.