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5 questions with Eileen Carr

5 questions with Eileen Carr

Nicole L. Craw April 19, 2022

For more than 17 years, Eileen Carr has served the University of Dayton as coordinator of ArtsLIVE, a performance series presenting concerts by visiting professional ensembles from around the world.

Next week, Carr will retire from UD, bidding farewell to her nearly two decades of offering the campus community and the city of Dayton exceptional arts experiences. 

Since starting with ArtsLIVE in 2005, Carr has presented more than 100 visiting artists or ensembles — ranging from adventurous contemporary musicians such as So Percussion, Missy Mazzoli, Phyllis Chen and Michael Mizrahi, to world music giants including Simon Shaheen, Vieux Farke Touré and Huun Huur Tu.

In her last week at the University of Dayton, she sat down with UD Magazine for a trip down memory lane.

Headshot of Eileen Carr
Eileen Carr


1. In these 17 years, who has been your favorite group/artist over the years? 

There have been so many. I really enjoyed working with So Percussion; they came back a couple of times. Most recently, I would say the Harlem Quartet. They came in February, and they were joined by a Cuban composer and pianist. It was a spectacular performance and, as a bonus, they're just wonderful people to work with.

I just love being able to present such a wide range of genres with ArtsLIVE. Although we call it “chamber music,” we feature everything from traditional classical to jazz and the very experimental. In our academic and university platform, I feel like we’re charged to present the best but also some programs that will challenge our audiences to think a little bit differently about what music is. I’ve loved working with the musicians and actually getting to know audience members who come back again and again — we have a lot of people from the community who are regular attendees.

“I feel like we’re charged to present the best but also some programs that will challenge our audiences to think a little bit differently about what music is.”


2. What performance or artist was your most unexpected success? And what, maybe, was a time when something went horribly wrong? 

I would point out one of the visits by So Percussion. They're a Brooklyn-based, contemporary percussion group. We ended up pairing them in a performance at the Dayton Art Institute, with Michael Bashaw and a number of students from Dayton Early College Academy. It was just the most transformative experience. It was just great, full of joy. It was a surprise, I think, for the DECA students, especially, who were really anxious about it because they were not musicians. It was phenomenally successful, but it was scary putting it together because there were so many unknowns — all of these individuals who hadn't really performed together, ever. But it was spectacular. It was … it was magic.

As for something that went wrong, I would say it's the lost instruments when musicians are traveling. We had a balaphone, a percussion instrument, go missing for a group from Mali. We had a didgeridoo not come through with the luggage for another group, but it was critical to the performance. I remember spending many hours trying to track down a local didgeridoo. I believe the airline did come through and delivered the instrument at the last minute. It was those moments when you just try to prepare for everything, but you really can't. I've had my share of unusual things. I guess other challenges I’ve faced are unusual requests for what is called “the backline.” In one case, one of the things I had to track down was a sizable barrel cactus, which the group planned to play by plucking its spines. Well, I found one! It's still in my office.

“I had to track down was a sizable barrel cactus, which the group planned to play by plucking its spines.”


3. What have been some of the strongest community partnerships ArtsLIVE has had throughout the years? 

I tried to build good relationships with various faculty and departments, depending on what we're bringing in. But one thing that we have done that has been really wonderful is we've gone on a number of occasions to DECA for workshops. Those are students who don't have an arts program. On the other hand, we’ve also taken our visiting musicians, particularly our jazz musicians, to the Stivers School for the Arts, to work with high school music students.

We had a long relationship with Cityfolk, a presenting organization of traditional folk and world music that closed down a few years ago. We partnered with them in presenting the World Music Series, and that’s really what helped us in bringing a rich range of traditions to our campus. As a result of that relationship, the University was then entrusted, after we applied, to manage and utilize the endowment that Cityfolk was able to build in support of jazz.

And drawing on my past relationship with the Dayton Art Institute, I was able to build a bridge and move the Vanguard Series, which was a Dayton Art Institute institution, over to our program. That, too, came with an endowment. So sometimes relationships and collaborations pay off in a lot of different ways.


4. ArtsLIVE has had such a strong relationship to the broader art scene in Dayton. What has it been like to sustain that?

It is really interesting, definitely, because what we present does reflect a knowledge of the larger music community. I’ve gone to a number of major conferences in New York, and they really ended up connecting me with the agents, the musicians and the trends that are emerging and evolving. It’s been just eye-opening. It’s been wonderful to learn what’s out there and work closely with people who track the industry. It’s a phenomenal industry, and the single biggest challenge is that there are so many options out there. There are so many incredibly talented ensembles and soloists that the hardest thing to do is to make those choices — we only have six or eight spots a year.

“There are so many incredibly talented ensembles and soloists that the hardest thing to do is to make those choices.”


5. What do you plan to do in retirement? 

My original career was art history — I have an M.A. in art history. I worked for the Dayton Art Institute for 11 years. I’ve recently completed training to do some part-time independent work as a fine art appraiser. There’s not a high demand for it, despite what we see on Antiques Roadshow, but it’s very interesting and allows me to do a lot of research. I really enjoy working with paintings, drawings, prints, that kind of thing. In terms of volunteering, the organization I’m associated with now is Culture Works, where I serve as president of their board — leading them in raising money for all of the major arts organizations in town, and running programs that support individual artists and small organizations. I’m also on the board of the Friends of the Centerville Library. But of course, I’m also looking forward to more time with family and friends.

The warmth of music