Tom Sessa: From PAC to Presenter and how WAA helped in the transition.

By Tom Sessa
Director of Booking, Sales and Marketing
Portland'5 Centers for the Arts

In September of 2014, I was 3 months into a new job as the Booking, Sales and Marketing Director for Portland’5 Centers for the Arts.  I arrived at my first Western Arts Alliance Annual Conference (Seattle) full of high hopes for my new position at a new organization, as well as the new direction that my position and department was headed.  Portland’5 was looking to be a performing arts presenter and was turning to me to lead the charge.  New job + new direction + high stakes = Excitement!  

One of the first people I met at the WAA conference was Michael Knapp.  Anyone who has met Michael knows what a kind and enthusiastic person he is.  Although we only spoke briefly and in a crowded room, Michael was very clear that he was excited about Portland’5 being a presenter and he offered to help in any way that he could.  I didn’t know this at the time, but this meeting would set the tone for my first WAA Annual Conference.  The agents that I met were positive and excited about Portland’5 Presents, and I had great meetings with many of them that have resulted in, or will result in booked dates in our calendar.  One agent in particular, Emerson Bran of Emerson Bran Management, whom I met in the lobby outside of the conference room floor, made a particular impression on me.  While we were both sipping beer and nibbling on some of the tasty snacks being provided, we struck up a conversation about Portland’s lack of touring Latino artists.  Not knowing who Emerson was, I told him that I believed there should be more Latino artists coming to Portland, outside of the big tours and mariachi bands, as our Latino population is growing and is expected to grow rapidly in the next 25 years.  As we spoke that evening, it became apparent why Emerson agreed with me as he represents some great Latino talent that we hope to bring to Portland in the coming years.

My time at the WAA Annual Conference was a confidence builder that has propelled Portland’5 successfully into presenting shows in 2015 and beyond.  I was able to get face time with agents which has resulted in business for our organization.  And I met other presenters that were doing what we are trying to do, which reinforced in me how difficult and rewarding the process would be.  As of January, Portland’5 has presented 12 events and we have managed to even make some money!  I am looking forward to the 2015 Annual Conference and the fruits that it will bear for Portland’5. 

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