Leadership / 03.23.22
For Julia Elbaum, Ticketing Is More Than a Numbers Game
She may not know the exact number of miles to her favorite vacation destination (New Zealand) or the precise number of times she has traveled across the Hudson River from her home in Troy, New York, to her office in Albany, but make no mistake about it, numbers are Julia Elbaum’s game — and it is a game she is very good at. This should come as no surprise given that she has been working in finance for the past 40 years.
While some may consider a career working with numbers less exciting than other options, being in the live entertainment field has made all the difference for Julia.
“It is different every day,” she says. “It does not sound like it when you are doing accounting all the time, but every settlement is different, every artist different. Our building is old, so something is either on fire, smoking or flooding every single day. [My job is] challenging. I love that it is different every day, and I am lucky I actually like all the people I work with.”
Julia continues, “It is easy in the arts to be inspired by people doing their craft. I am inspired by people who do their craft or job well. It is the passion that people either are feeling, conveying or passing along. For me, the alternative is drudgery. We all have days that are filled with drudgery and, unfortunately, some people are trapped in jobs that I am sure are [a struggle] for them. What inspires me is anybody who is passionate about what they are doing.”
Over the past four decades, Julia’s career has come full circle. She spent the first half as Director of Accounting and Finance for the Denver Center for the Performing Arts (DCPA) and today is Chief Financial Officer (CFO) for the Palace Performing Arts Center in upstate New York. The intervening years also saw her poring over the books for a museum, a historical society, a religious organization and a charitable foundation. While her career dates back to the early days of BOMI and other organizations tied to theatre and the performing arts (she helped found the CFO/Arts group and was on the ground floor when the Performing Arts Center Consortium was formed), she only joined INTIX in the spring of 2021.
“Maureen [Andersen], who I worked with a thousand years ago [at DCPA], asked me to help lead a panel on auditing at the INTIX Conference in New York City in 2020, so I did that,” she says, describing how her most memorable INTIX moment came to be.
“[I was pleased that] it went as well as it did, because I absolutely cannot stand getting in front of people and speaking. I am the person who, 30 seconds later, has passed out cold from locking her knees and hyperventilating. I do not do public speaking well at all. I went in there thinking, ‘Oh, my God, just let this be over. It is going to be so embarrassing.’ But everyone raved about it and said it was wonderful. I do not know if it was a setup or not (laughs) because, after that, Maureen asked me if I would consider taking on the role as Board Treasurer when Brendan (Bruss) finished his term.”
As a valued board member, Julia did indeed take on the role. She also quickly adopted INTIX as her go-to professional network.
“It is really useful for [networking] because it is not just ticketing in your own industry,” she says. “It is really helpful that INTIX touches all of the industries where ticketing is done. It touches people in various job roles as opposed to only people who are ticket sellers or box office managers. There are people like me who are on the finance side but have a background where I would like to think I could still sell a ticket if I had to.”
She continues, “[INTIX] also helps me be a more well-rounded person in the job that I do have because I think, at least for me, being in a leadership position, you really need to know what everybody does. Anybody who knows me knows that means I can do it if I have to, that I actually have the skill or I tried to learn the skill so that when the pandemic happened, as in the case of the Palace where I work, there were only two of us left standing. We did everything. I was the facilities manager. We were everything because we had to be. Especially during the pandemic, I think it has been helpful because we all had people we could reach out to [in order] to figure out what the heck everybody else was doing and how they were going to move forward.”
In speaking with Julia, it quickly becomes apparent that she has an outstanding work ethic. For this, she credits her mother. “She was a working woman, and I really admired that,” Julia says. Indeed, Julia says a good work ethic is also what she values most in her colleagues and in leaders.
While work clearly brings immense meaning to Julia’s life, she also values her downtime and has become quite the globetrotter.
“We have been to all continents except for Antarctica and South America,” she says. “We have only touched a little bit of Asia. We have been to probably 80% of the countries in Europe; we have been to New Zealand, Southeast Asia, all the U.S. states and Mexico. Just all over. I loved New Zealand. Absolutely. Hands down. Loved it. It is absolutely stunning. Everything about it was good. We took our kids, and it was wonderful that they were able to enjoy it too. [It had] a lot of outdoor activities, great people; everything about it was magical.”
When the Elbaum family travelled to New Zealand, Julia’s children were 5 and 7 years old at the time. They are now well into their 20s, and Julia says with pride, her greatest achievement was “raising two extremely independent, well-adjusted children.” She adds, “My kids and my family in general [bring me the greatest joy in my life].”
While she loves traveling (she now dreams of going to Patagonia in southern Argentina), Julia also enjoys relaxing at home, gardening, sewing and reading. She lists William Manchester and Ron Chernow as her favorite authors. “I am not much of a romance novelist reader,” she says. “I like nonfiction. Sometimes biographies or autobiographies. Sometimes adventure. I used to love reading murder mysteries. I kind of move around. It just depends [on my mood].”
Her eclectic tastes extend to music, too. When it comes to live performances, Elton John quickly comes to mind. “I have seen him in many different venues,” she says, “and there have been a lot of great shows. He is a gifted musician. I certainly enjoyed seeing the Rolling Stones. I like Adele; I like Beyonce. I actually like Taylor Swift. We get a ton of jam band shows where I work now, so that is a new love. I like a lot of artists from the ’60s and ’70s when I was growing up and in high school.”
As for her favorite venue, she mentioned two, both from places where she has lived. “Certainly for live music, having grown up in Colorado, I do not think you can beat Red Rocks [Amphitheatre]. I don’t think that [venue] can be surpassed [for live music]. Although now living in the northeast, Tanglewood is also a nice place to go for outdoor music. The venue my husband runs, the Troy Music Hall, is famous for its acoustics. They are actually perfect. They are renowned for that, and it is quite a special venue. Unfortunately, in order to keep the acoustics perfect, the seats are the original ones from the 1880s, which is a running joke with everyone. They are kind of cool because they are the old flip-down wooden seats, but underneath there is the little thing where gentlemen would slide their hat brims and when you fold the seat down, your hat is basically hanging upside down under the seat.”
While that sounds an awful lot like it could be a metaphor for some people’s lives, it certainly does not apply to Julia Elbaum, who remains at the top of her game after four decades. Nevertheless, it does raise the question that we often ask our interview subjects: What advice would you give yourself if you could go back in time? Chuckling somewhat mischievously, Julia says, “Stick with the original plan.” And what was that? “I will not tell you,” she says while continuing to laugh.
Now in a reflective mood, Julia is asked what she would wish for if she were granted three wishes. “Isn’t the first one what you learn in first grade?” she responds. “That is, the first wish is that you want to have as many wishes as you can. Then you have the rest of your life to figure out what the rest of the wishes are.”
After a slight pause, she does concede, “At this point, I wish I could retire.” Earlier in the interview, Julia also shared that she would love to go back one day to New Zealand, “but it’s a long trip.” There are also, she says, “a lot of places we still want to go.”
(For those who have been wondering, according to Google Maps, it is 8,874 miles from Troy, New York, to Auckland, New Zealand. One way.)
And, in looking back on her distinguished career, what would she most like to be remembered for?
“The things that I admire most in people I hope are things that people think about when they think of me, like hardworking, loyal, a sense of humor; I hope that I come across that way.”
It was apparent during our conversation that Julia is all of this and so much more.
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