For Teren Shaffer ’08, the conductor’s baton is the quintessential symbol of leadership. But not for the reasons you might expect. As a former award-winning conductor, Shaffer knows that even the most subtle stroke of a baton can cause an ensemble to snap to attention. But since his early days conducting and serving as an adjunct faculty member in Hall-Musco Conservatory of Music at Chapman University, Shaffer has always known that the art of conducting is less about exerting control and more about collaborating toward a shared vision.
“As a conductor, you don’t really make the music,” said Shaffer. “I’m not directly responsible for creating any of the beautiful sounds. What I do is provide a vision, inspire the musicians and shape the architecture of the music.”
Today, Shaffer is stepping onto a different stage and applying the lessons he learned at the podium to his new role as president and CEO of the Orange County School of the Arts (OCSA).
Shaffer credits much of his professional development to a well-balanced and robust undergraduate career at Chapman.
“While I never in a million years would have imagined I’d be running an arts school like OCSA, reflecting back, the experiences I had at Chapman certainly planted the seed and helped me cultivate the skills that have been instrumental in my success as an artist, administrator and business leader,” he says.
From arts management opportunities to production support on stage, Shaffer immersed himself in an array of hands-on activities during his time at Chapman. These opportunities, he says, helped him realize that possibilities within the arts industry extend far beyond the stage.
Carrying Out the Vision
A passion for the people he serves is ingrained in Shaffer’s creative vision. As he embarks on this new chapter in organizational leadership, he’s guided by the philosophy of his longtime mentor, OCSA founder Ralph Opacic: “People, quality relationships and culture are everything.”
Asked about his priorities at OCSA, Shaffer doesn’t hesitate. It’s about cultivating a unique, nurturing environment where people feel appreciated and where innovation and creative thinking are embraced.
For Shaffer, this comes down to collaboration.
“Just as a conductor relies on the ensemble to create the art and move the audience, leading an organization is the exact same thing,” says Shaffer. “I can’t do anything by myself. All I can do as a leader is commit to a vision, create an environment that supports that vision and have an uncompromising focus on organizational culture and community.”