Marie-Sylvestre Olesen became FCA’s new executive director July 6, 2022. Originally from Montreal, Canada, Marie grew up with access to cultural diversity and performing arts.
“I immersed myself in music and live events like the Just for Laughs Comedy Festival, Montreal International Jazz Festival, Drum & Bass Festival, rock, folk, classical, opera, ballet, symphony, theater, and more,” she says. “I believe live performances connect us to the world. I am excited at the prospect of working with the Fairbanks Concert Association’s board and staff in collaboratively maintaining the organization’s high standards of excellence while growing new opportunities.”
Marie has lived in Fairbanks since 2014. She previously worked at the University of Alaska Fairbanks as the coordinator for the Undergraduate Research and Scholarly Activity office and coordinator for Arctic and special projects. An experienced nonprofit leader, she also served as the executive director of the Yukon Quest International Association Canada, where she led a successful celebration of the Yukon Quest’s 30th anniversary. She earned a Master of Science degree in responsible tourism management from the University of Greenwich and holds a bachelor’s degree in visual arts with a minor in anthropology from the University of Montreal.
People keep telling me I’m the one who makes it all happen. The truth is, it couldn’t happen without our dedicated contractors, hospitality sponsors, and volunteers! But I do find myself at the center of it all, firing off emails, making phone calls, mailing out tickets, and paying our bills. When I’ve done things right, it can be hard to tell I’ve done anything at all!
At our concerts, you’ll typically find me at the ticket sales counter, and you’ll definitely want to come find me if things aren’t going according to plan!
On a personal note, I originally hail from Western New York, but I moved to Fairbanks in 2015 after spending a summer in Coldfoot. I never expected I’d want to live in Alaska for the long haul, but isn’t that just how the story goes? My heart belongs to the Brooks Range now, to say nothing of my wife and son, both Alaska-grown.
In fact, it was my love of the Brooks Range that led me to start guiding tours with Northern Alaska Tour Company (NATC). And you might already know that NATC provides ground transportation for FCA’s visiting artists. During my 3-year tenure as an Dalton Highway tour guide, I also shuttled most of FCA’s visiting artists, including Tanya Tagaq, Melissa Etheridge, We Banjo 3, and OK Go.
I took La Santa Cecilia sledding at UAF. I saw the greatest display of aurora I’ve ever seen with an improv group from The Second City. I brought Dervish, with Cathy Jordan, to the Parks 229 Restaurant in Denali. I got to pet reindeer at Running Reindeer Ranch with the Versa Style Dance Company.
What a privilege! I’ll hold some of these memories for as long as I live. I’m thrilled to be a part of the FCA team!
I’ve spent some 20-plus years in communications and public relations, most recently at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. I liked the places I’ve worked, but I also always wondered about the lucky few who worked for the Fairbanks Concert Association. Then suddenly, somehow, one of the lucky ones was me!
As you enter Hering Auditorium for a performance, you’ve probably noticed the soundboard in mid-house and the man operating it. Josh plays an integral role in bringing great performances to FCA audiences, here’s a behind the scenes peek at his job.
Before each season begins, Josh looks at the tech riders for each group that will be presented. Tech riders usually contain detailed instructions on what sound equipment the artists require, a diagram of how the stage should be set, and specific requirements for back line equipment. The back line is any musical instrument or accessory that the artist is not bringing with them on tour, and can be anything from a piano to a plexiglass drum cage. Josh and Rhonda discuss the back line, as they each have local contacts for particular equipment, and divide the responsibility for securing that equipment. Josh calls the artists to speak with their tech director, front-of-house engineer, or production manager. Depending on the size of the group, there could be several different people Josh will speak to, or only one. With all these people, Josh checks to see if the tech rider has changed since it was submitted to FCA, and goes over the details of each piece of equipment. Some riders will be very specific as to makes and models of equipment and back line, and Josh works out compromises that will please the artists and still allow him to obtain equipment locally, or order acceptable substitutions from Anchorage. Josh explains, “I try to make it easy for them. I need to make sure they know what they’re getting when they walk through the door. There shouldn’t be any surprises for them. They just want to know what they’re going to walk into.”
Josh will speak to the tech director again the week of their performance, answering any last-minute questions or concerns they may have before they travel to Fairbanks. On the day of their load-in, Josh’s job is to make sure they know where everything is located, and serve as their liaison to the equipment. If the group submitted a stage plot, Josh will have the stage set upon their arrival so that they may sit down, tune their instruments, and begin their sound check.
In the sound check, the group and Josh set the levels and mix for the group. The mix is the balance between the instruments that comes through the speakers and the group’s monitors. Josh’s job in mixing is to make sure all the instruments can be heard, are balanced, and if the instruments sound as they are supposed to, or how the artists want them to sound. For mixing, Josh answers directly to the group, so if they want a specific sound, or a balance that seems unnatural, he incorporates that into the mix. Some groups are easier than others in the sound check, and Josh has to balance the needs of FCA, the audience, and the artists, which puts his diplomacy skills to work. If the artists have traveled with their own sound tech, Josh will act as support staff during the show, taking care of any needs of the tech crew, troubleshooting, and repairing equipment if necessary. “Anything can happen,” Josh says, though clearly he hopes his job during the show is relatively uneventful. If he is mixing for the group, he maintains the mix established during the sound check, making any necessary adjustments on the fly.
Following the show, he tears down his equipment, packs it away, and prepares for the next show, which may be one for FCA, or for someone else entirely. So, the next time you’re at an FCA show, spare a thought for the man behind the sound table, balancing the sound and making the artists sound their best for the Fairbanks audience. As with any tech job, it can be thankless at times, and we appreciate all that Josh does to make our performances unforgettable.
For those of you who know me, you know that I love my dogs. It was because of dogs that I ended up in Fairbanks. I came to Alaska by way of the Yukon Quest. Since 1997, I volunteered in various aspects of the race—from office volunteer, to checkpoint volunteer, as dog handler and now as the designer of the Yukon Quest’s print materials. My studio is a proud sponsor of the race, donating many hours to promote the race to the international audience that it attracts.
It was not in my life plan to move to Alaska, but I left a well-established position as Art Director in a Washington DC ad agency and bought raw land on Chena Hot Springs Road. 6 months later I was living in my own waterless cabin, had a sled dog team, and I thrived during my first winter in Alaska. I’ve been here ever since and I couldn’t imagine living anywhere else. I love the way Fairbanks fosters community, we are sensible, neighborly folks. We help our friends and our friends become our family. We all know to add 30 minutes to our schedule when we go to Fred Meyers. It’s a town that lets us make a difference.
I’ve lived in a lot of towns — some big cities and other small places but I’ve never been able to do the things I’ve done in Fairbanks. I co-hosted Car Talk on KUAC radio. I’ve run a polling place. I judged flowers at the Tanana Valley Fair. I’ve helped with fund-raisers, auctions, and other non-profits events. I’ve even officiated a wedding! I’ve never been in a city that allowed me to be involved in so much. I like to do the same in my business, 5th Avenue Design & Graphics, Inc. with the help of my business partner, Karen Farrell and Lindsay Williams, our junior designer.
FCA Executive Director, Jason Hodges, first approached me to do a simple season catalog and some minor mailings. Who wouldn’t love promoting the Chinese Circus? A “Frog” dance troupe, or world-renown Celtic fiddler, Eileen Ivers? I loved working with Jason and the FCA. Our working relationship morphed into a great friendship in and out of the studio. After the 2005 season, we got to know the Fairbanks audience a bit better and by 2007, Jason and I decided to give the FCA print material a theme. You might remember that FCA asked you to “go out on a date.” All the promotions used “blind date” descriptions, phrases and images that reinforced those moments we’ve all endured when dating someone new.
It was so successful that folks called FCA about their “driveway moments” after receiving their season brochure, sitting in their cars reading the entire piece while the car was running. It was such fun to know the word play increased FCA membership and subscriptions. I was very proud. I feel very ownership when I take my seat for each performance. Will the house be filled? Will the audience fill out their questionnaires? Will they love the show? Did our postcards and ads represent the performers accurately? I’ve enjoyed working with the new Executive Director, Anne Biberman and hope you love what we’ve done with this season! I’ll see you in the Hering Auditorium!
I’m a Creative Communications Consultant and Professional Development Specialist. My wife and I have called Fairbanks home since 1979. I started working with FCA in the spring of 2014 to migrate the website to a new platform and give it a fresh, new mobile-friendly design.
For 31 years, I worked as an educator in Fairbanks North Star Borough School District. For most of my career, I taught science, math, graphic and web design, and computer networking. Since 2006, I’ve specialized in Professional Development, working with teachers and students to creatively integrate technology tools to enhance learning and teaching.
I also consult with local non-profits and small businesses to shape their Internet presence to better meet the needs of their audiences. Rather than just creating website designs and “makeovers”, I focus on creatively selecting and integrating technology and media tools to achieve each organization’s mission and goals.
When I spend too much time being a web geek, I leave the computer screen behind, grab my skinny skis or a paddle and head outdoors. In winter and spring, I love skijoring the trails with my four “wannabe” sled dogs ( Mushers say I’m missing more than a sled, and “Just don’t call ’em sled dogs if they sleep indoors.”) In summer, wild Alaskan rivers beckon me to explore in kayak, packraft, or canoe. For 25 summers, I guided river and backpack trips in remote Brooks Range and Arctic wilderness.
Executive Director Anne Biberman’s enthusiasm is contagious. It’s an exciting journey being involved in helping communicate her visions of Seeing, Sharing, and Feeling the experiences that FCA brings to our community.