Organization: Old Town School of Folk Music

Location: Chicago, IL

Express Interest

About Old Town School of Folk Music:

Celebrating its 60th year of service to Chicago in 2017, Old Town School of Folk Music (“the School”) is the largest community school of the arts in the United States. With an annual operating budget of $13M and almost 400 employees, the School is among the leading cultural organizations in Chicago.

Founded in 1957, the School expanded in 1968, when it moved from North Avenue to Armitage in Lincoln Park, and again in 1998, when it renovated and took over the old Hild Library in Lincoln Square. In 2012, the School opened a new $17M state-of-the-art facility across the street.

Today, the Old Town School’s reach ranges from infants in its trademarked Wiggleworms early-childhood music programs, to adolescents and adults building their creative lives through music and dance.  Enrollment in the School’s tuition programs averages 6,600 students per week, 2,700 of them children. The Lincoln Square and Lincoln Park Facilities hold hundreds of classes in music, dance and art seven days per week, 48 weeks per year.

The School also serves infants and toddlers in Lawndale, children grades 3-8 in more than two dozen Chicago Public Schools, incarcerated teens at the Cook County Juvenile Temporary Detention Center, and adolescents and young adults in the Englewood neighborhood.

Old Town School’s annual concert and event schedule consists of more than 300 events and entertains and enlightens over 100,000 people. These events highlight the talents of big name acts and master musicians from more than 50 countries, with many events produced in partnership with a wide diversity of other community groups.

As the economic engine of its neighborhoods, and the largest employer of the 47th Ward, Old Town School of Folk Music routinely proves that the term “folk music” includes a whole world of cultural expression – one that lives right here in Chicago.  Operating with a five-year strategic plan, the school continues to focus its resources and activities on improving and expanding artistic opportunities for people of all ages, interests, abilities and backgrounds.

To learn more about Old Town School of Folk Music, please visit its website:

The Opportunity:

The School’s new Deputy Director is a dynamic leader, institutional innovator and key member of the senior executive team.  This new position is charged with reimagining extensive arts education programs; deeply engaging Chicago communities in arts participation; designing partnerships with public schools, universities and a range of civic collaborators; coordinating cross-pollination among the School’s numerous programs and administrative departments; and advocating for the School and the arts in a variety of public settings.  Reporting to the Executive Director, and serving as the School’s chief executive in his absence, the Deputy is expected to significantly advance the School’s programs and profile as an important player within Chicago’s cultural ecology.

The Deputy Director will directly oversee – and build strong connections between – all of the School’s arts education programs.  These include on-campus, tuition-based curricula at the Lincoln Square and Lincoln Park facilities; a major community collaboration on the South Side; and a range of in-school artist residency projects throughout the city.  The Deputy supervises the Director of Education, the Director of Arts & Community Wellness, the Director of Artists-in Schools and 300+ teaching artists.

A key component of this role will be partnering with the Director of Arts & Community Wellness to ensure the successful development, implementation and expansion of a deeply collaborative community program currently being piloted in Englewood. This groundbreaking partnership of social service providers, community health advocates, community economic development agencies and artists, employs trauma-informed arts pedagogy to advance personal and community health outcomes in troubled neighborhoods. The effort requires an experienced community organizer to secure its future.

Additionally, the Deputy Director will help develop systems to achieve the organization’s strategic goals, working closely with senior leadership, staff and faculty to implement “best practices” to increase effectiveness, efficiency and consistency across the organization.

Specific areas of responsibility include:

  • Strategic development, administration and expansion of the School’s extensive, diverse music and dance education curriculum. Supervision of the Director of Education to advance the School’s core, tuition-based offerings as relevant, exciting contemporary culture;
  • Creation and execution of data-informed, results-oriented initiatives that help the School achieve its enrollment goals;
  • Supervision of the development and expansion of the Center for Arts & Community Wellness, the School’s evolving project serving youth in Chicago’s most disadvantaged neighborhoods. Supervision of the Director of Arts & Community Wellness in working with a consortium of community partners and teaching artists;
  • Leadership in expanding Artists in Schools programs in response to the recent adoption of statewide arts education learning standards. Supervision of the Director of Artists in Schools program;
  • Development and maintenance of collaborative working partnerships among Education and Administration, Development, Marketing and Operations departments to ensure that appropriate programs are in place to drive attendance, provide exceptional arts participation opportunities, and attract contributed support from institutional and individual donors;
  • Development and implementation of assessment and evaluation protocols appropriate to program initiatives, including compliance with ACCPAS accreditation requirements;
  • Oversight of department budget planning and management;
  • Full participation as a member of the School’s “Executive Team,” the department heads who shape the School’s programmatic and budgetary direction, external messaging and internal cohesion;
  • Mentorship, coaching and guidance to mid-level staff, and active collaboration with senior administrators;
  • Representation of the School in meetings and conferences including a variety of public presentations, panel service, consultative services, and the fielding of press/media interviews; and
  • Delegated authority to act on behalf of the Executive Director in his absence.

Candidate Profile:

An Action-Oriented Leader with Strong Execution Skills

The Deputy Director is an entrepreneurial, tactical and results-oriented leader with the ability to translate the School’s growth, expansion and development goals into clear objectives and plans. The Deputy Director will be an architect and a builder with the ability to set priorities decisively, delegate responsibilities, allocate resources and establish accountability to ensure results. The Deputy Director brings experience affecting change in a complex organization and a proven record of converting strategy into effective execution, offering creative, practical ideas to achieve the School’s strategic direction.  S/he possesses a strong data and analysis orientation and a proven ability to use metrics to drive growth and development decisions. An ability to leverage the expertise of the staff and hone the organizational systems and processes will be key for success. S/he will understand and approach complexities with ease and be able to creatively overcome obstacles to achieve the organization’s goals. The Deputy Director will be recognized as a leader capable of stewarding the next chapter in the School’s remarkable history.

An Ambassador for the School

The Deputy Director is a charismatic leader who will serve as an ‘Ambassador’ for the School in partnership with the Executive Director. A confident public speaker and a natural spokesperson, the Deputy Director enjoys the external side of the role, working to inspire enthusiastic engagement and broader, deeper interest in the organization. S/he will represent the School as it seeks to increase engagement and is a comfortable, credible and effective advocate for the School’s mission and vision to a wide range of constituents. The Deputy Director believes deeply in building and nurturing a robust network of relationships to foster collaboration and advance the School’s mission. The Deputy Director is entrepreneurial and creative when thinking about how to best engage new groups of stakeholders in the mission of the School. S/he will be a strong communicator capable of leveraging multiple media platforms to advance the organization’s goals and articulate its value proposition to a wide range of constituents.

Building Relationships and Using Influence

The Deputy Director must establish rapport and cultivate relationships across all levels of the organization and empower a diverse staff and external constituents to deliver results. The Deputy Director will be inclusive, allowing for the building of consensus and recognition of teamwork. It is imperative that s/he foster an atmosphere of collaboration and partnership across the organization. The Deputy Director will be a catalyst for change and growth who inspires others to think entrepreneurially and inject new ideas. S/he will understand the need to learn the history and culture of the School and appreciate the complexities it faces today before making recommendations. S/he offers creative, yet practical ideas to achieve the strategic direction of the School, doing so with a deep understanding and commitment to the traditions and nuances of the organization. This individual will foster trust and collaboration among team members and will possess the ability to manage through change with flexibility and poise.

Passion for the Mission

The Deputy Director has a sincere passion for the arts and an understanding of how they enhance a community and the lives of its citizens. S/he is committed to bringing the School’s mission to the residents of Chicago, the surrounding communities, and far beyond. S/he is innovative with the goal of helping the School expand its brand and reach. It is imperative that s/he leads by example and always stays true to the values of the School. The ideal candidate is an individual of unquestioned integrity, ethics and values; a leader who can be trusted without reservation.


Koya Leadership Partners has been exclusively retained for this search. To express your interest in this role please email Anne B. McCarthy and Alison P. Ranney directly at All inquiries and discussions will be considered strictly confidential.

About Koya Leadership Partners:

Koya Leadership Partners is a national retained executive search and human capital consulting firm that works exclusively with mission-driven organizations, institutions of higher education and social enterprises. We deliver measurable results, finding exceptionally talented people who truly fit the unique culture of our client organizations and ensuring that organizations have the resources and strategies to support them. For more information, visit