ACSO Guest Blog: A Zillennial's Guide to Work-Life Balance: Working in Non-Profit Arts Administration

A Zillennial’s Guide to Work-Life Balance: Working in Non-Profit Arts Administration 
By Tiffany Fajardo, Patron Experience and Community Engagement (PEACE) Manager, Berkeley Symphony 

Hi, I’m Tiffany, a 2018 college grad, born in the year 1996, right on the cutoff between the youngest Millennials and the eldest Gen Z. For some context, I missed my 6th day of kindergarten because 9/11 happened. My generation, the weird gap between the kids who grew up with their only internet source being the computer room at their school libraries and the kids who were born with internet readily available in any room in their homes, has seen the tail end of the “college is the only way to be successful” and the rise of the “college doesn’t actually give you much of a leg up and actually just leaves you with a ton of debt” narratives. This perspective has shaped my own relationship with work-life balance to a pretty solid science, and I am here to share with you my wisdom on how to embody both sides of the coin.

I’d like to provide you, dear reader, with a glimpse into a week of my life, one that I may define as a typical week, inclusive of a few monthly obligations that don’t necessarily all happen in one week. This is not an example of a concert week, which we all know lacks any life outside of work and that’s just the truth of the matter of working for an orchestra.  

With the disclaimers aside, let’s dive right in.  

  • Monday through Friday, 9:30am to 5:30pm (hard stop): Work for Berkeley Symphony 
  • Monday, 7:00pm: Hayward La Honda Music Camp Artistic Meeting 
  • Tuesday, 4:45pm: Teach Oboe Lessons 
  • Tuesday, 7:00pm: Calliope East Bay Music and Arts Board Meeting 
  • Wednesday, 7:00pm to 9:00pm: Chabot College Wind Symphony Rehearsal 
  • Thursday, 6:30pm: Date Night! 
  • Friday Evening through Sunday Morning: No working!, only fun, household maintenance, and REST 
  • Sunday, 2:00pm to 6:00pm: Calliope Concert Livestream Tech 

As we can see, I’ve got a scheduled non-work “extra-curricular” pretty much every evening. My Type-A brain thrives in a schedule, so having a dedicated activity for each evening after work really brings a robust sense of deep connection to my local community. My schedule is unique to me, so let’s dissect how each of these activities enriches my work-life balance.  

The Breakdown 

  1. Work for Berkeley Symphony 

If you’re reading this blog post and have gotten this far, I assume that you also work for an orchestra in some capacity. (You are subscribed to ACSO’s newsletter, right? If not, do so! You get access to so many great things!)

I am the Patron Experience and Community Engagement (PEACE) Manager at the Berkeley Symphony where I spend my days cultivating an exciting patron experience, ensuring that they feel the warm welcome of Berkeley Symphony from the first moment they call our office to when they leave the concert hall. I also am working towards building out several new community projects that include outreach to our local school districts and local music stores to ensure that there is a concerted effort to utilize the free ticket offering for students in the area. To round out my responsibilities, I serve as the primary coordinator for our Special Events Committee and as the liaison for our volunteers. My role at Berkeley Symphony really leans on the "other duties as required" to fill in any administrative gaps that may arise.

Full-time work for an orchestra tends to consume our lives because we love what we do. It’s truly a dream to facilitate the production of accessible and innovative orchestral performances. Here’s the hard part: Even if you love your job and are passionate about your work, you cannot surrender yourself to the beast that is your work. You are worth more than your productivity and impact on the industry. Doing so will only breed resentment toward the work you do, the people you work with, and the world around you. You can love what you do, but you should always love yourself more. Sometimes loving yourself means doing the difficult task of closing your laptop and doing things outside of your comfort zone.  

  1. Arts Admin Outside of Work 

Here’s where I’m going to throw you a bone, my dear arts admin work-a-holics. There are ways to contribute your incredible professional skills and knowledge and the fulfillment that you get from work and put that into something that will bring you a greater sense of community.  

I volunteer my time with two non-profit arts organizations: the Hayward La Honda Music Camp and Calliope East Bay Music and Arts. For the summer camp, I serve as a member of the Artistic Advisory Committee, an oboe coach, and a counselor, all of which are ways to exercise the educational muscles that so dearly contribute to that musician pipeline we spend countless hours in workshops trying to find the answers to.  

For Calliope, I serve as their Board President and primary livestream technician. Here is where I can bring that wealth of knowledge and skills around grant writing, box office, production, and community engagement to a young (only founded in 2020) arts presenter in the East Bay.  

Finding organizations in my area that are in alignment with my values, whether it be a music organization or not, to volunteer with has been essential to creating the deep roots in my community. Being fully engaged with my community has always been at the epicenter of my priorities, and if you’ve been involved in the arts admin world for the last 10 years, you’re also probably looking for ways to be an active participant in your community.  

  1. Musical Enrichment 

As an oboist, I find myself glad that I didn’t pursue performance full-time. I was burnt out from it right after college and admittedly didn’t even want to play all that much anymore. I was glad to have a change of pace, where my playing wasn’t for an income, it was for fun again.

Oboe lessons have been and will always be one of the highlights of my patchwork career. Working with students in a one-on-one capacity always helps keep me grounded and encourages me to continue finding new and creative ways to teach. 

In addition to teaching, my weekly ensemble rehearsals keep my chops up, and many of the members of this ensemble are also folks I work with at La Honda each summer and are friends and colleagues I have made over the years. One of the tremendous assets of playing with this group has been that the musicians in the ensemble are made up of a diverse group of people, many of which are music educators, admins, corporate workers, and more. Find something that sparks your inner musical soul and reignites the reason for coming into arts administration in the first place. Everyone comes together for the mutual goal of creating music together once a week, and that’s a priceless reminder of how important music is in our lives.  

  1. Personal Enrichment 

You’re probably wondering, “Tiffany, why is your personal life way down here at the bottom?” Dear reader, you may not know this yet, but everything you do is part of your personal life. I’ve only put this down here to serve as a catch all for everything else I do to cultivate a balanced life. Here are a few of my priorities surrounding the time outside of my scheduled work, volunteer, and musical endeavors: 

  • Date Night: This is a non-negotiable! My partner and I have been together for 7 years, and one of the key things that has made notable differences in our lives has been a regular date night. You don’t even have to have a significant other to have a date night, you can take yourself out to dinner and a movie, join that bowling league, enter the realm of Virtual Reality, or join a knitting circle. The opportunities are endless. The key part of this specific night: Do something to treat yourself (and a loved one) for being a wonderful human being. That’s it. It’s not a reward for getting a promotion or accomplishing something. You are worthy of nice things, whether you think you deserve them or not.  

  • Non-musical hobbies: I am a crocheter, fiber artist, yarn addict. You will not catch me without a ball of yarn and some project I am working on. I am guilty of (and will not be apologizing for) working on crochet projects through every meeting I don’t actively have to be taking notes for. Crochet has only been a hobby of mine for the last couple of years, so it is never too late to learn something new! 

    Another of my main hobbies is video games (
    I know, I know, this generation and their technology…) Games have always been a critical part of my life, ever since I received a Gameboy Color for my 4
    th birthday with Pokémon Blue, and have been both a reliable stress relief and a consistent source of joy.

    I could go on and on about hobbies: bowling, baking, dancing, hiking, everything and anything. Do something completely different than your job, volunteer work, primary passion hobby, etc. You will be surprised at how mentally refreshing and engaging doing something for the pure joy of it is.  

  1. Rest 

My final part of my routine, the most cherished and valuable of them all, is rest. I will not get any less than 8 hours of sleep per night. This is a complete non-negotiable. If I have to stay up into the wee hours of the night finishing up a grant application that is due in the morning, I have to be honest with myself and say, “Where did I go wrong earlier in the process to lead me to this point? Did I overload my plate at work? Did I procrastinate and sabotage my own time management?”  

When you find yourself sacrificing your sleep and restful periods for work, something has to give (and it isn’t your health). Here’s where you must learn the following: I work to enrich my life through the funds that I am paid to do work I find meaningful and impactful. If the work no longer feels meaningful and impactful AND you’re not being paid enough to live a healthy and balanced life, something needs to change.  

The Formula

TLDR (too long, didn’t read): Here’s my unique (but probably super applicable) formula for achieving the work-life balance you’ve always dreamed of. 

Work: Meaningful + Impactful + Pays you the amount it costs to live a life you want to live.  


Volunteer: Bring your amazing skills to organizations that are in alignment with your values. 


Musical Enrichment: Find ways to re-engage your musicianship. Join a chorus, write a song, participate in open mics at your local underground venue. Whatever it is, nourish your soul through the music making process. 


Personal Enrichment: Date Nights (alone or with someone else) + Hobbies that aren’t at all related to what you do for work, volunteering, or musical enrichment. This is purely for your own (what feels like selfish) pleasure. Find what makes you feel like you’re alive in the skin that you’re in. 


Rest: Do it, your body will thank you. If nothing else, start here and establish the distinction between periods of work and periods of rest.  

A final reminder before I send you on your way to enjoy this newfound joy:  

You deserve all the love, joy, happiness, and peace in the world purely for existing on this planet. You do not need to earn the opportunity to experience the vastness of the human experience through how productive you are at work. You are important because you’re you.  

About Tiffany Fajardo: Tiffany Fajardo is a passionate arts administrator, musician, and educator with a vision to make instrumental music a relevant and influential art form for all. She is currently the Patron Experience and Community Engagement (PEACE) Manager for the Berkeley Symphony, President of the Board of Directors for Calliope East Bay Music and Arts, and a key member of the Hayward La Honda Music Camp as an administrator, artistic support, and oboe instructor. As an educator, Tiffany maintains a private oboe studio from her home in Oakland, teaching oboe students of all levels and ages. Tiffany was also the recipient of ACSO's 2022 Emerging Professional Award which recognizes recognizes individuals who have demonstrated ability and impact early in their careers.

About ACSO's Guest Blog Series: Our membership network is full of incredible people with a wealth of life experiences, talents, and diverse perspectives and backgrounds. We want to share their insights, points of view, and wisdom with all of you, as well as raise the voices of individuals who are making a difference for the classical music field. Our guest blog series features people from different communities throughout California and the western US, from different sizes and types of classical music organizations, and with different jobs and responsibilities. They share what they have learned, express their opinions about the sector, and ask challenging questions that will help us shift our thinking and be better advocates for this art form that we all love. 

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