Basie CEO in the Asbury Park Press: The impact of arts ed on ‘Jersey leaders


This article, written by Count Basie Theatre President / CEO Adam Philipson, originally appeared in the Sunday, August 20 edition of the Asbury Park Press.


As a youngster, my school lacked a sports program. I was admittedly undisciplined, and I wasn’t book smart – at least not until later.

However, my school did have a theater program – and it became my home.

Within this home, my passion, natural curiosities and expression thrived. And because of the powerful lessons and training I experienced in theater, my participation and interest in school increased dramatically — pun intended.

PAA Students
Basie Performing Arts Academy students during a recent workshop

My confidence, focus and value as a person allowed me to excel academically.  My education, steeped in the arts and all that they bring, shaped me and infused me with connectivity and gave me an expansive view of the world that brought me success on many levels.

All because of the arts.

So I thought I’d find out how the arts impacted other people. Did they have similar experiences? I contacted successful artists, executives, entrepreneurs and business leaders in our community, and I asked them the $64 million question: How has an arts education impacted you?

Here’s what I learned:

“I’m so grateful that my mother bought me a piano when I was six and had me take lessons,” said Joe Rapolla, musician and chair of the music business program at Monmouth University. The arts has impacted my entire career and personal life, from building an entertainment marketing agency, running marketing for two of the biggest record companies in the world, to being appointed chair of the music department at Monmouth, my alma mater. I accomplished this while touring internationally as an active performing songwriter.”

“The opportunity to dig deeply with body, mind and spirit into the art of ballet was transformative for me,” said Yvonne Lamb-Scudiery, Vice President of Education at the Count Basie Theatre. “I know my abilities to juggle multiple projects, to problem solve creatively, to set and achieve goals – plus the physical benefits gleaned from years of dancing – are a direct result of the skills required in mastering an art form. I shall be forever grateful for this life changing career path.”

“The arts have sublimely affected my life, from grade school until today,” said Tom Bernard, co-founder of Sony Pictures Classics. “Being exposed to some of the greatest paintings in the world during grade school art appreciation classes opened the doors to the visual art of film, which stayed with me throughout high school. This led me to chasing a film major in college, and ultimately to my current profession. I am not sure this path would have been started if I hadn’t been exposed to those great paintings early on.”

Notice a consistent theme or narrative bubbling up to the surface?

I do: Gratitude.

The folks who answered my $64 million question were grateful to their parents, schools, teachers or mentors for their early exposures to art. They showed gratitude for the music, film, dance and performances that have colored their lives and livelihoods. The results for each of them, as well as myself, are clear: An education infused with the arts impacted and helped drive our lives in a way that made us who we are today.

This is what an arts education did for us, and also what it can do for our children and future generations. Together we can make arts education the priority it needs to be in our home, community and country.