CEO McDermott learns various roles for Center for Performing Arts


This wasn’t “Undercover Boss,” but Center for the Performing Arts president and chief executive officer Jeff McDermott did make it his mission to learn others’ jobs.

Jeffrey C. McDermott The Center for the Performing Arts

“One of the things I took it upon myself to do was I had been involved in management of my firm for a bunch of years, so I understood management issues, HR (human resources) issues and budgeting, but there are some things we did at the Center I wasn’t familiar with,” McDermott said. “How our production team works with artists and artists crews and how a show does go on. I did some things that were both fun and informative for me. I spent a day on the production team where I helped load in an artist. I came to work in jeans and a black shirt and I helped everything from rolling out carpeting on the stage to learning how to focus our spotlights.

“I thought that was helpful for me to understand what our production team does. I don’t know how to support people if I don’t really know what they do, so that was helpful.”

He also spent an evening as an usher, putting on a white shirt, tie and read the usher manual from cover to cover.

“They assigned me a mentor and I scanned tickets and helped seat people and really learned the usher and volunteer experience,” McDermott said. “I’m sure I just skimmed the surface. It led me to experience what areas our staff do that were new and different from anything I’ve ever experienced before.”

McDermott took on those roles when he was serving as interim president for nearly 13 months. He was promoted to the full-time position Aug. 30, 2017.

McDermott, who has lived in Carmel for more than 30 years, previously had been a partner with Krieg DeVault law firm. He is now serving in a more limited role of senior counsel with the law firm.

Prior to becoming interim director of the nonprofit organization, McDermott joined the Center’s board of directors in 2010 before it opened in 2011.

McDermott said there was a learning curve in programming as well.

“We have a great vice president of programming in Doug Tatum,” he said. “Doug was hugely helpful to me in learning what he does and how he does and the intricacies of programming and schedules and the business side of that.”

McDermott said he has met with other performing arts centers directors and attended a national conference last year with artists and booking agents.

“Everyone brings some of their own tastes and choices to programming,” McDermott said. “One thing I felt strongly as a board member and brought with me to this position is not to tell Carmel, Indianapolis or Central Indiana what they should see but bring to them what they want to see. At the same time, it’s sort of our responsibility to bring them some things that stretch the imagination and open them up to new experiences. One thing important to me is to make sure we are doing both, (also presenting) first-class acts or artists. Some of them are going to have more mass appeal than others. We have a responsibility to try to present all types.”

McDermott said country acts continue to be popular. Many rock and pop acts also have been popular.

“I think it’s more artist specific even more than genre specific,” McDermott said.