The Man Behind the CFA (Emails): An Interview with Andy Chatfield

“I just turned 39 over the weekend and I’m already planning my 40th birthday party. Next year I’m going to cover all of the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack with my friends.”

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special thanks to Isaac Butler-Brown ’17 for this special foto of us

A couple years ago, we started noticing swaths of event submissions from someone named Andy Chatfield. After we’d open our staff inbox and see 20 or 30 unread emails all from this one guy, he became sort of a running joke at staff meetings, known to us only as that dude who submits arts stuff several months in advance, often in large batches, and frequently not including event pictures.

Turns out, he’s the Press and Marketing Director for the CFA, and since we talked about him so much at staff meetings, we thought we should meet him. kitab and I sat down with him last week at Red and Black to talk about his jazz and 80s cover bands, his kid who likes dinosaurs, and the inner workings of the Center for the Arts.

Would Andy rather fight one horse-sized duck or 100 duck-sized horses? Does he think Wesleyan is really that weird? Read the full interview after the jump:

How did you get involved with the CFA?

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this is his official staff thumbnail from the cfa website and it’s actually the best

AC: So I’ve been working in the nonprofit arts for a dozen years. I studied music in college (I went to Syracuse, I’m a drummer) and I kind of found my way into doing communications, and publicity, and marketing for the arts just because I had a passion from playing music. I started at the Greater Hartford Arts Council [as] the Cultural Promotions Coordinator, which is really just a promoter for all the grantees there, and then I went to work for the Hartford Symphony. I’d studied classical music primarily at Syracuse, so that was kinda more in line with my studies. And then I went down to the International Festival of Arts and Ideas in New Haven — they’re a two-week festival in June that has music, but also theater and dance, and [other stuff].

And then five years ago, there was an opening here at Wesleyan, which is a much shorter commute for me instead of driving an hour to New Haven. So I’ve been here for five years. But I kind of just randomly found my way into [marketing]. It just came from being passionate about the arts.

Are you from Connecticut?

AC: I’m originally from Bristol. While most of the people I went to Syracuse with moved to New York, after college I came back here to actually start a band with guys that I went to high school with. We all went to different colleges and studied music. It’s actually our fifteenth anniversary as a band this year!

What’s your band called??

AC: I have a couple different bands; this band is called Stanley Maxwell, and that’s a quartet and we write original instrumental jazz-funk-rock songs. We’re actually playing this summer at the International Festival in New Haven Green. I never played there when I worked there, so that’s fun.

[“YMCA” starts playing on the speakers at Red and Black]

[laughs] I’m just listening to the disco that’s playing. I just turned 39 over the weekend and I’m already planning my 40th birthday party. Next year I’m going to cover all of the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack with my friends [laughs]. But I also have an 80s cover band that I started last summer [and] that’s playing a bunch this summer.

So, what exactly do you do at the CFA? What’s your job?

AC: Along with John Elmore, who’s our art director who designs all of our materials, I write all the copy for our brochures, posters, emails, the website, calendar listings that you guys see.. We create all of the marketing materials, I write radio ads, write the press releases, try and get coverage for the artists that are performing, work with TV stations if they wanna have an artist on their show, or radio interviews, newspaper interviews.. So, anything communications-related, marketing, PR..

And as you know, we have hundreds of events a year, so most of my time is spent doing promotions for the visiting artist series for the CFA, which we call the Performing Arts Series, that we program in collaboration with the music, theatre, and dance departments, and also the visual exhibitions in Zilkha Gallery. But I also do some of the promotions for the Davison Art Center and the College of East Asian Studies gallery at Freeman. So we kind of roll their exhibition promotions in with the Zilkha Gallery to promote the idea of coming to campus and seeing three free exhibitions at once.

kitab: It sounds like it’s not your job, but particularly with the visiting artists, how does Wesleyan find those kinds of acts?

AC: I’m on the music committee, just because I’m a musician and that’s my background, so that’s comprised (like all the other committees) of staff from the center for the arts, faculty in the department, and also graduate and undergraduate music majors. So the process starts a season [one season is September-May] in advance, where each of the members suggests artists in the field that are interesting or related to the curriculum that they’re teaching that they think would be interesting to come to campus, and then all the members of the committee research the initial list that’s proposed by the other members.

We have a voting process where we narrow it down to the artists that have the highest number of people that are interested in bringing them, since there’s only four slots on the Crowell Concert Series, and see which ones rise to the top. And then our programming staff reaches out to their agents to see what their touring schedule is like for the next season and where their price range falls in terms of our budget. The same things happens in the dance committee and with the theater department and curating gallery exhibitions but I’m only part of the music side of it.

Maya: How did you find out about Wesleying? I think we started noticing that you were sending a lot of events to us a couple years ago, maybe.

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our email inbox circa january 31, 2016

AC: I have student workers that work with me in the office, and you know, I ask them where they find out information about stuff going on and they would say.. that’s the place that Wesleyan students go, so we wanted to be sure that we were there [laughs].

I also just finished another survey project doing paper surveys of our audiences — we did one four years ago, and we just finished one this past Friday where people check off all the places they’ve heard about events, whether it’s a brochure, or a friend telling them about it. We’re just trying to direct our efforts where they’re most.. effective.

Maya: Which efforts are most effective, then?

AC: Overall, it’s the brochure that’s mailed to people, which is interesting ’cause you would think that most things are electronic or social media, but it’s really those physical things that people get mailed to them that are [best].

kitab: Do you know what proportion of audiences are Wesleyan students versus other community members?

AC: Our campus is unique in that we get such large student engagement in our performances; there’s typically between 30 to 50 percent students. Like, this past Friday, with Wu Man and the Shanghai Quartet, that was I think 40% students in the audience. Other campuses drool over that kind of engagement with their students, cause it’s really hard to get students excited in the work. But I think part of it has to do with the way that we program by committee so the students have a voice in the artists that we bring.

There’s also a lot of the engagement work that my colleagues at the Center for the Arts do, like.. Wu Man was here a week before her concert and she went into a lot of different classes in the College of East Asian Studies, so there’s that chance for the students to get to know the artists before they have their performance.

Maya: And I think the Shanghai Quartet did a master class with [a student ensemble called] the F Holes?

AC: Yeah, and Wu Man was there too, that afternoon.

Maya: I was at that concert, and every time I go to a CFA thing I’m always surprised to see students there, actually.

kitab: I’ve been to a fair number where there’d be like.. swaths of students. It’s always funny, the cultural interactions between the clearly Wesleyan kids and the community members going to, like, a nice concert.

AC: And that’s something that Pam Tatge [former CFA director of 17 years] always talked about, the energy that’s in the room with that mix between the campus community and the rest of the state.

kitab: I mean I enjoy it, especially the first few years before I did things outside of Wesleyan. Just any situation in which you don’t interact with anyone directly Wesleyan-affiliated was a kind of nice change. It’s cool that there’s that mix.

Maya: We touched on this a little bit when we talked about your bands, but what’s your life like outside of the CFA?

AC: I’m married, I’ve been married for 10 years, and I have a son who’s three and a half. Just this past weekend for my birthday, we went down to the Peabody Museum at Yale, and he wanted to see the dinosaurs, ’cause he loves the t-rex. And then yesterday I played with Stanley Maxwell over at the Hillstead Museum in Farmington — they had like.. a bridal fair for people who were planning to get married, with all kind of vendors — but we played jazz, hoping to get hired for a wedding gigs, that kind of thing.

That’s kind of a typical weekend, splitting it between playing with one of my bands and hanging out with my wife and my son. I’m also a graduate student at Wesleyan — I’m in the graduate liberal studies program. I’m halfway through, with a concentration in the arts. I’m taking Keiji [Shinohara’s] Japanese woodblock printmaking course, which is awesome! That’s one night a week.

kitab: How does that work; do you take a class a semester?

AC: Mmhmm. And that program’s really built for people that have their career during the day, and then they come to class one night a week. It’s a challenge, of course, to balance it with everything else, but I really love the courses I’ve taken. I’ve taken Strictly Abstract Drawing and then Jazz in the Sixties, so those are the three arts classes, and then I took Lifespan Development, Adolescent Brain Development, and then I took a writing course with Anne Greene. But the two brain development courses have been really interesting to learn about the stages that my son will be going through, and especially the adolescence, which is.. [laughs] totally frightening. But that’s not for another, like, ten years.

kitab: When you first came to Wesleyan, what were your impressions? Are we as weird as we think we are?

AC: I mean, I don’t think it’s that.. weird. It might be weird to somebody who’s coming from a different background? Like, I come from an arts background so I don’t feel that it’s that weird ’cause I feel like I’m weird myself. I think a larger perception of Wesleyan might be that it’s weird, just because there’s such a strong arts presence on campus, whereas.. like, I went to Syracuse, which is ten times the size in terms of the student body, and there’s such a focus on athletics there, it’s a Division I school, they’re in the, you know, NCAA tournament. Whereas with Wesleyan, it’s a Division III athletic school, and the arts have 11 buildings, and.. so, it’s kind of that balance that’s different. But I feel more at home [here], because even when I was at Syracuse, I was across the way [from the huge stadium] practicing drums. Other people that don’t have that background or perception might maybe think it’s different here. I think it’s normal.

Maya: Yeah I mean, I came from a similar kind of arts background so it wasn’t weird to me at all. I thought it was great.

kitab: I mean like, maybe it’s weird? But it’s not weird in a particularly unusual sense. Do you get any sense of how stratified campus is? Or not just stratified, but just how separated it is. There are whole swaths of the Wesleyan community I never interact with, and I don’t know if that’s apparent from a staff perspective.

AC: It’s not as apparent to me because the students that work for me have some sort of connection to the arts, so that’s the segment that I see the most. I think if I interacted more with non-arts folks I might see more of those separations, but I guess it’s true on any campus to some degree, even if it is a smaller campus like Wesleyan. And obviously those differences existed at Syracuse too, and there was a whole row of Greek houses that  I had no connection to.

kitab: I know sort of like a.. funny.. visual thing, but have you ever gone to one of the taiko concerts? There are so many, like, football players in it! I don’t know if you have any connection to arts classes, but..

AC: I mean I work with the different music faculty to help promote their events, and that sort of thing, but I think it’s interesting that a lot of the physical kinds of arts-related courses like taiko or a lot of the dance courses that have that connection to people on the athletic side of it, cause there’s a physical aspect to playing taiko drums.

kitab: Yeah, I’ve done Ebony Singers a couple times, and it’s like.. fun! [In arts classes there are] a lot of people that I don’t usually have classes with. We’re maybe bridging the gap more than we think it is.

[Note: This happened at the beginning of our interview, while kitab and I were making small talk about how long we’ve been involved with Wesleying. After almost three years, we started reminiscing.]

kitab: A couple of years ago there was this infamous email about whether you would want to fight duck-sized horses or horse-sized ducks? [Maya: I remember that!] And they like, posted it on the site and I don’t think anyone except Wesleying people really cared, but now we tell those stories to the freshmen.

AC: [laughs] Which did you select to fight?

kitab: I don’t know which one! I dunno, I kinda like ducks.

Maya: So would you go for duck-sized horses or horse-sized ducks?

kitab: I dunno. Horse-sized ducks sound scary. Horse-sized anything sounds scary. But I think it’s also 100 duck-sized horses or one horse-sized duck. What would you go for?

AC: I’d probably go for the one big duck, cause a hundred duck-sized horses might be overwhelming. [laughs]

kitab: That’s true. I also work at Long Lane Farm, and I don’t know if the duck would just interpret you as a worm, and then you’d be out —

Maya: –try to eat you, or something.

kitab: Not your problem anymore, I guess.

Andy Chatfield’s personal website is here. His jazz band, Stanley Maxwell, can be found here, and his 80s cover band, which is called The Future Heavies, is on the internet here.

3 thoughts on “The Man Behind the CFA (Emails): An Interview with Andy Chatfield

  1. huh

    Unclear why I decided to read this in its entirety, but honestly a great and interesting interview! Always interesting to hear more about the great people that work on campus and keep things going!

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