Last week, I served as an usher for a very auspicious occasion, IsaiahFest, a performing arts celebration. The event was a three hour extravaganza to mark the end of Isaiah Sheffer's reign as Artistic Director at Symphony Space, a performing arts venue on New York's Upper West Side that Sheffer co-founded 32 years ago in an old movie theatre to bring the community a day of free Bach "Wall to Wall" for over 12 hours.
Under Sheffer's leadership and through the work of many other extraordinary people, Symphony Space has become a local favorite and has made the national map as a cherished center of cutting edge and accessible (read: affordable) art–from stage to screen, and from print to radio. You may have heard Sheffer's voice before on the radio–he's also the host of the syndicated public radio show, Selected Shorts, which films live at Symphony Space. (If you haven't heard it before, check it out here and get a ticket to go one night this fall!)
You can learn more about Mr. Sheffer's work and Symphony Space in this 30th anniversary video
As the house opened doors for IsaiahFest, I prepared to seat guests and filled my arms with programs to give out. I was working a large aisle with many guests and anticipated a large crowd of people who needed assistance to their seats. The seat numbers vary between center the side aisles. I anticipated questions. But I had very few, and I gave out few programs...The guests were so familiar with the venue that most of them sat themselves and picked up their own programs from the usher's stash at the end of the aisle.
One person asked me for the program–Mr.Sheffer himself–and I gave him one. After many rehearsals, it was finally okay to let him peek. Movie stars, Tony award winners, and personalities of stage and screen filled the stage, and in the end they sang, "this is the space that you built."
It was a remarkable celebration of a career. And yet it struck me, equally rare. We don't often publicly celebrate life-long achievements over the course of the years. So many careers today seem to end prematurely, even–with retirement by illness, layoff or restructuring.
If you were allowed to design a celebration of your career, what would it look like?
Twenty years from now?
Who would you want in the audience?
Would you want to know everyone there personally?
Would you want–as Sheffer had–a televised greeting from Stephen Colbert and a performance from Leonard Nimoy?
When you're contemplating a move, it's great to be able to envision a great ending and to figure out what you need to jump start your next move forward. How can I help you get started–or think about what you want in the end?