Where passion meets profession, there is fulfillment. There is a satisfaction that stems from more than just doing a good job; it’s doing something personally worthwhile that makes a positive impact. As with all things worth having, a job that harmonizes personal and career goals is difficult to find—but that’s where fate steps in.
Joseph Schmaderer, born and raised in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, is currently the director of operations at Carnegie Hall in New York City. He graduated from the University of South Dakota in 1993 with a bachelor’s degree in business administration and a minor in psychology; supplementing his education with a passion for the arts and desire to make a difference. Like so many graduates, though, he wasn’t sure where to start.
“I came out of college not entirely knowing what the future held for me,” Schmaderer said. “I knew that I was a hard worker. I just needed the opportunity.”
The Midwesterner never thought he would find his place in the nation’s hub for artistic and musical entertainment. But 20 years later, that confidence and work ethic have elevated Schmaderer from an entry-level employee to managing business operations for one of the most prestigious performance venues in the world. What he calls business operations are more than the usual board meetings and budgets—although there’s plenty of that, too. He manages the 750 live performances and recordings during each concert season as well as a 110-member staff that includes three labor unions.
'I came out of college not entirely knowing what the future held for me. I knew that I was a hard worker. I just needed the opportunity.'
As much as he loves the nearly constant activity, Schmaderer hasn’t forgotten his roots. Even now he remains in shock of the journey that took him to New York City, and appreciates the education, dedication and life experiences that got him there.
His artistic endeavors began at age 5 with piano lessons, the same age at which he started playing soccer. He continued both through high school, when he also picked up choir, theater and oral interpretation. He attended All-State Chorus and The American Legion Boys State and won awards, scholarships and state championships along the way. For him, merely being involved wasn’t enough—he was actively involved, employing the same intensity in each challenge he took on.
When it came to higher education, though, Schmaderer reached a crossroads. He had been offered a vocal scholarship from USD and a theatrical scholarship through another university; with a passion for both fields, he wasn’t sure which to accept. And on top of that, he couldn’t decide between the arts or business as a profession to pursue. Fortunately, he had both his mother and the universe looking out for him—two forces with which he has learned never to argue.
After evaluating long-term goals, he determined that his skill set and ambitions best aligned with business administration; his mother saw him being happiest in some form of theatrical management role. Visiting the USD campus, meeting with prospective students and hearing success stories like those of Al Neuharth and Tom Brokaw then solidified the university as his best option.
“I remember thinking at the time, ‘here are two extremely successful people educated in South Dakota,’” Schmaderer said. “To me, that meant anyone who studies at USD could have the same opportunity. I really felt it was a great institution and not only was the education amazing and cost-effective, it’s what one does with the knowledge that ultimately makes the difference.”
With that decision made, Schmaderer didn’t just take a step toward fulfilling his goals; he dove right in. He devoted the next four years to making the absolute most of his educational experience and sharpening his already marketable skills. In combining both arts and adventure with the business administration program, he struck a triad that became the theme song for his future endeavors.
'I remember thinking at the time, ‘here are two extremely successful people educated in South Dakota.' To me, that meant anyone who studies at USD could have the same opportunity. I really felt it was a great institution and not only was the education amazing and cost-effective, it’s what one does with the knowledge that ultimately makes the difference.'
“I had a lot of things I wanted to do and explore when I came to college,” he said. “Having been educated primarily in religious schools, I was a dualistic thinker. The university experience opened me up to new methods of thinking, and many of my USD professors opened me up to new worlds.”
The business curriculum introduced him to an unanticipated love for business, numbers and analyzing problems. Between that, his psychology minor and other electives, he received a well-rounded education that allowed him to pursue additional interests and expose new ones such as literature and poetry.
Then came the extra-curricular activities. Having always been interested in the arts, Schmaderer joined the USD Chamber Choir and an independent Strollers group. Having always possessed an adventurous spirit, he traveled throughout the country in educational exchange programs.
The first exchange experience occurred during his sophomore year, when he was one of two USD students chosen to participate in the Westfield State College exchange. He spent that spring semester at the college’s campus in Massachusetts and starred in the musical Guys and Dolls. The memorable experience led him to study at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas during his junior year as part of the National Student Exchange. Schmaderer then stayed in Vermillion for his senior year and directed his Strollers squad.
Upon graduation, he secured a management position with an insurance replacement car rental agency in Sioux Falls focusing on sales to insurance adjusters, body shops and mechanics. Although the job wasn’t exactly what he wanted to be doing, he still did his best - and it paid off.
His superiors noticed an obvious propensity for hard work and dedication, and promoted him to manager of a branch in Sioux City, Iowa. After about nine months there, however, Schmaderer noticed that despite all he had learned by being in sales and working with a variety of customers, he faced a lack of personal satisfaction in the business.
With that he decided it was time to take his skills and degree on an adventure and make a difference in the quality of music education. He took a vacation somewhere more conducive to his creativity: New York City. And 20 years later, the vacation still hasn’t ended.
That’s not to say there hasn’t been hard work involved, however. Schmaderer found a job to get by while he was in the area before stumbling upon an entry-level position at Carnegie Hall in 1997. Once again, his abilities and determination quickly caught the attention of his employers. By 2007, he had worked his way up to being the director of hall operations—just in time to help manage the building’s $225 million Studio Towers Renovation Project.
Each day since he began has been its own challenge, but in the best way possible. The schedule spontaneity and diversity make for days that go from addressing human resource matters to catching an orchestra rehearsal.
“Working here is an adventure in itself,” he said. “But I absolutely feel like I was meant to be here. The universe knew it before I did, my mom knew it before I did—this is exactly what I was meant to be doing.”
The director is still in awe of the way everything fell into place, and still gets chills every time he walks onto the hall’s main stage; it’s a feeling that never gets old. He has built a successful career in an environment that gives him personal fulfillment, essentially reaching the epitome of job satisfaction. Looking back on everything he’s accomplished, Schmaderer is humbled by the thought of how it all started.
“My biggest accomplishment in life has been an internal awakening,” he said. “It’s been a long learning process to discover who I am and how I’ll make my contribution to this world—a process that really began for me at USD.” Then, a few years ago, he was given another opportunity to make his contribution to music education; this time through his alma mater.
Larry Schou is the dean of the College of Fine Arts at USD and travels routinely to meet with the department’s donors. One of these trips took him to New York City and, having heard of Schmaderer’s position, Schou asked if he could stop by. The two met in Schmaderer’s office and talked about the former student’s time at USD and all that had happened at the university since.
Their discussion brought back waves of wonderful memories for Schmaderer and, after giving Schou a tour of Carnegie, he set up funding for the Joseph Schmaderer Scholarship in Voice. By awarding one each year, he hopes to give someone the same opportunity he received through the scholarship that originally brought him to USD.
“I still feel a connection to USD,” Schmaderer said. “I had such a good experience there that when it came to thinking about where I could give back, that was the place that felt right for me.”
Though Schou hadn’t known the student during his college years, he’s glad they had a chance to get to know each other and can now stay connected as time goes on.
“Joe is a great guy and has reached a high level of achievement,” said Schou. “But he still has such a passion for USD. Each scholarship is a blessing that helps our students fund their college educations, and the one he provides is important in helping us bring in a vocal music major who will graduate as a Coyote and go on to do great things.”
Schmaderer may have traded the rolling plains for towering skyscrapers, but he remains grateful for the adventure that took him there. He eagerly anticipates the years to come, knowing full well that he’s found the role he’ll continue to fulfill for the rest of his career.
A holistic education prepared him for a successful career in business administration. A passion for the arts fueled his drive to make a difference. By supporting both with a dedicated work ethic, Joseph Schmaderer has struck a chord that perfectly harmonizes his character and career.