Pamela Jordan has just completed her fifth year as president of the Idyllwild Arts (IA) Foundation. She is also the head of Idyllwild Arts Academy and summer program.
She is responsible for hundreds of students, from Idyllwild to Los Angeles and the rest of the continent and the world. Staff and faculty are in the hundreds. Tuition does not come close to matching the school’s expenses, so fundraising is a critical part of the job, especially to support IA’s international reputation.
Despite these responsibilities, Jordan said, “It is still absolutely a thrill to be in paradise.” After days of travel, she adds, “There is nothing like coming home.” Jordan lives close enough to the school to walk to work and back home.
Jordan is not a manager that simply oversees the program. She is active and participates, which is why she values being head of school.
“Being Head of School is the best job on the planet. You get to be around students,” she exclaimed. This means opportunities to meet, to exchange ideas and to learn from the students each year. She also observes how the changing institution affects students differently.
She is comfortable with change and is gradually bringing it to the academy’s campus and attitudes. Her success draws upon her ability to focus on a vision, adopt incremental steps toward it, and most importantly, be comfortable and accept ambiguity.
She quickly identified a model — the three-legged stool — for her environment. The academy, the summer program, and Idyllwild all represent the three legs. Jordan is always trying to ensure these three legs can support her vision for the future of each.
Role of the summer program
Jordan recognizes the value of the IA summer program. Yes, it offers kids, teens and adults instruction in music, art and theater, but it is a portal to the academy. The academy, full-time students, from September through May, and the summer program are connected, not independent.
“The academy and the summer program are both educational. We needed to better align it with the school. It is not a distinct program,” Jordan stated. This was her initial challenge.
The summer program can be a very effective introduction to Idyllwild Arts for prospective students.
“It’s the first glimpse of the school for the youth,” Jordan noted. “We’re striving for actual integration.”
The summer program also provides many classes and learning opportunities for adults, who also can develop a long-term connection with the school, she believes.
“We need a living space to support 21st century learning,” Jordan continued. To fulfill that vision, she began work on a strategic plan almost from day one. The Foundation Board adopted it in 2016 and she is already working on a revision. In 2020/21, Jordan anticipates the completion of the next strategic plan.
This will allot more thought to “ … how the board can support the vision of the future,” she said.
Jordan recognizes that being president of the foundation demands a lot of time for many projects. She realizes that she cannot implement and manage everything herself.
“One of my greatest accomplishments is the people attracted to these roles,” she said smiling. “I can’t do it all. I want to inspire and to attract talented and skillful people to key positions.”
She quickly acknowledged the contributions from Marianne Kent-Stoll, vice president for educational programs. She knows what Jordan wants and anticipates her needs. Kent-Stoll and others give Jordan time to travel, fundraise and work with the board.
“My leadership model is situation leadership,” she explained. “It is not just good to have people working with you. They have to understand what you want.
“I serve at the pleasure of the board,” Jordan said. “But only if the leadership team knows what I need and how I need to meet the expectations of the board.”
The faculty is a key component of IA’s evolution. Jordan wants them to become more than dispensers of ideas, techniques, or direction. In today’s world, the faculty must continue to learn and adapt to technology and change.
Consistent with this concept is the hiring of a Director for Innovation and Curriculum. “Her role will be to support teachers as they explore and implement new practices and methods,” Jordan explained.
Related is Jordan’s idea to establish an Institute for Teaching and Learning, which she has described in the past. It will stress creativity, and it will connect to the teachers and adults who take summer program classes.
Jordan loves the arts and her husband, Chris Scott, is a musician.
“In the past, we identified right brain and left brain skills and thinking,” she admonished. “We don’t think that way anymore. Today, we want to educate the student to enter the world and to be able to adapt and change. Students need a well-rounded education and an independent school will incorporate that.”
Jordan also envisions aligning an independent school and an independent boarding school. Today, there are big differences, but she plans to reduce and eliminate those differences.
What she asks herself and her staff is “Who are we today?” and “How do we define excellence in arts?”
“Things change so rapidly today. It is hard to keep up without providing support,” she said. That is the purpose of a Director of Innovation and an Institute for Teaching and Learning.
Good staff allows Jordan to address other issues such as fundraising. This involves extensive travel because “Idyllwild Arts is decidedly an international school. It is important for others to hear and share our story.”
Jazz in the Pines
“Jazz in the Pines is held on campus when there are no students there, but Idyllwild Arts has a commitment to students,” Jordan said regretfully.
The summer jazz festival was suspended this year. This decision was made a year ago. After the 25th-annual Jazz in the Pines, Jordan wrote a letter to the community announcing that Jazz in the Pines would take a hiatus in 2019.
Before she wrote and released the letter, she was already organizing a group, which includes Harry Pickens, Evan Christopher, Marshall Hawkins and others, to examine the relationship of the festival and the school.
Over the year, much of their thoughts and ideas paralleled Jordan’s view of better aligning the summer program and the academy. Going forward, the group wants to align the academy’s jazz program, the summer program and relate it to the community.
For example, Jordan pointed to the many world-renowned jazz professionals, who perform at the festival. “How do we bring these wonderful guys to the school so the academy students could benefit?” she posed.
The music is paramount, but being a professional musician is a unique life. Jordan also wants students to understand how professionals live between musical engagements and what that means. Her example is Hawkins’ time with Miles Davis. “What was that like? How did it happen?”
“In 2020, I want Jazz in the Pines to promote Idyllwild Arts and to support Idyllwild,” she said. “There won’t be a festival weekend. The last week of the summer program will be the equivalent, but it won’t be on campus.”
Jordan and Stephanie Yost, president of the Idyllwild Community Center, have already discussed the use of the Butterfield Amphitheater for the jazz performances next year. She has also approached several other venues in town including Ferro.
Another difference, as a consequence of changing the location, is the absence of special vendors. “I want people to go to the stores in town. We’ll work with the Rotary,” Jordan added. “I want Jazz in the Pines to promote Idyllwild Arts and to support Idyllwild.”
One of Jordan’s higher priority projects is improving campus security. Later this fall, new directional signs will be installed, a public parking lot near the admissions office will be constructed, and the enforcement of staff and faculty badges will play a role in increasing the security of the campus.
While she realizes the road through the middle of the campus is a public road, the increased emphasis on security will improve student vigilance.
At the beginning of this school year, 323 students were enrolled — the largest student enrollment to date.
Jordan also noted that more families are moving to Idyllwild while their children attend the school. This year, there are 44 students living off-site, also the largest ever. This brings a larger and more involved parent community to the school, she added.