I have no specific memory of an early decision to play music, no inspiring moment that changed my life, no one person who encouraged me to pursue music as a profession. Instead I remember the kindness of a long succession of church ladies who freely gave piano lessons to the pastor’s kids. I remember my mother’s patience as she put up with hours of piano practice, and later, allowed my brothers to start a rock band in our basement. In our home, music was never a special luxury; it was simply part of life. I would go directly from arguing with my brother to playing duets with him. Growing up without a television encouraged me and my five siblings to play creatively. We sang together, made up nonsense games together, performed together, and not for a moment did we think it was unique or special.
I attended the University of Nebraska-Lincoln seeking a major in mathematics. I absolutely loved the intellectual discipline of finding patterns, proving theorems, and untangling complex and multi-faceted situations to find an elegant solution. In the meantime, I also wanted to nourish the artistic side of my personality, so I joined University Singers and added a piano performance major. My dual degree was the perfect preparation for my career as an arts administrator, which balances critical thinking with a focus on artistic excellence.
As executive director of Lincoln’s Symphony Orchestra, my day is spent working with complex situations, and my job is to facilitate an environment where our Music Director’s artistic vision can flourish. My upbringing, steeped in creativity, informs the way I approach my role as the leader of an arts organization. Although my day-to-day work predominately focuses on creating a sustainable and viable business, the art that we create is central to every decision. It is impossible to overstate the importance of a nurturing environment that supports creativity, and I am honored to create that for our community with Lincoln’s Symphony Orchestra.
Barbara Zach has been executive director of Lincoln’s Symphony Orchestra since 2005. Since taking the helm, Zach has guided LSO through a critical time of artistic growth and audience expansion, including LSO’s move to the Lied Center for Performing Arts in conjunction with an affordable ticket price initiative. Since then, the orchestra has performed for more than twice as many audience members as they did the previous year, and a majority of LSO’s individual donors have increased their contributions to support this initiative.
Zach is a graduate of the League of American Orchestras’ Executive Leadership Program and Leadership Lincoln. She serves as chairperson of the Downtown Rotary music committee and is the Vice President of Membership for Nebraskans for the Arts. She is a member of the Lincoln Arts Council and Lincoln’s Young Professionals Group, and a volunteer for the TeamMates Mentoring Program. She was a recipient of the Lincoln Business Journal’s “40 Under 40” award, a finalist for Lincoln’s Non-Profit Executive of the Year Award, and received the Governor’s Award for Emerging Leader in 2010.