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Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Interview With The Man Behind The Scenes

It’s another Intern Interview and this week is The Pavilion’s very own Vice President of Operations Jeff Young. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t incredibly intimidated walking into Young’s office before the interview. After all, how do I interview someone who has been with The Pavilion since its inception? By the end of the interview he made me feel like I had been here all along and made this interview one worth writing.

Young has been with The Pavilion since its opening in 1990 and he’s seen just about everything. From remodels to backstage experiences, he’s a walking piece of Pavilion history... but that’s not what makes Young so unique. It’s his knowledge of the business, support of the people he works with and great sense of humor but mostly his love for The Pavilion.

1. How long have you been working at The Pavilion?
"This is my 24th year. I started in 1990."

2. Did you start out as the VP of Operations?
“I started out as an operations assistant. I started sweeping cigarette butts off the hill, picking up trash, pressure washing, setting up chairs, etc. Doing gopher runs, picking up things, cleaning things. I became full time in 1994 as assistant facility manager, promoted to facility manager in six months, moved to operations manager in 1995 and in 2001 I was promoted to VP of Operations.”

3. How did you get started working at The Pavilion?
“I actually worked at Randall's and a friend of mine who was working with me said his dad was friends with a guy who was working here. He was executive director at the time and said he was going to get a job. It was all about music and concerts and I said well it’s better than flipping burgers and serving potato salad. So I came and interviewed with the operations manager. The joke was I was hired because I was bigger than the operations manager so he gave me a job right there on the spot.”

4. How has The Pavilion changed since you’ve been here?
“It’s expanded in size of staff and capacity. We’ve gone through four renovations. Our original capacity was 10,000. 1995 was our very first expansion increasing to a capacity of 13,000 while adding additional amenities for the guests like restrooms and concessions. In 1997 we added the administration building and VIP club. In 2001 we expanded the lawn capacity while adding a new dressing room complex and maintenance facility and Lawn plaza, while increasing capacity to 16,000. Because of Hurricane Ike we expanded and totally renovated the seating area and roof structure in 2008 while increasing our capacity to 16,500.”

5. What are some of the challenges that you’ve faced as VP of Operations here at The Pavilion?
“Dealing with the public and knowing that unfortunately we will not be able to please everyone is a challenge for me personally. I know it sounds cliché but I want everyone to experience the venue and their favorite artist the way they want to in the safest manner possible. The venue is about memories and experiences and if we do our job correctly there are a ton of magic moments that our guests can walk away with, looking forward to the next concert or event. We have policies and procedures in place that are for the protection of our guests and artists that visit the facility. Unfortunately those same policies may contradict with how a particular guest wants to enjoy the concert which can lead to a potentially negative experience. It is a two way street for sure. Although we strive for perfection we are also human ourselves. The goal is to learn from them and try to prevent them from happening in the future. I would also have to say that weather is another constantly changing situation that is a major challenge for us.”

6. If you had to give one piece of advice to anyone working in your position what would it be?
“Relax: realize that this is a team sport. It takes many dedicated individuals to make it all happen. We are very fortunate to have staff that have dedicated countless hours and energy to our overall success. Additionally I would have to mention that you have to be flexible and able to adapt very quickly to the ever-changing environment.”

7. Where do you see The Pavilion heading in the future and what are some of your goals for the future specifically?
“I see The Pavilion improving the experience for the guests by updating the facility and staying current with technology. We will need to update and renovate some of the facilities to meet the current demands during events. I see us increasing our education programs and further our responsibility to help educate young minds to music and the classical arts. I personally have been very fortunate to be associated with the venue as long as I have and look forward to the next challenge. I plan on continuing my on-the-job training and learning from our current President and CEO Jerry MacDonald and our very talented Board of Directors. I can’t wait for the next adventure .”

8. Who’s been your favorite artist that you’ve seen?
“It’s really tough to limit it to one, because I was counting it the other day and I think I’ve been a part of more than 1,000 events. My top five are Roger Waters, The WHO, Pearl Jam, Coldplay and Iron Maiden. Dave Matthews is always a favorite, Metallica and Black Sabbath. The fun part is not so much the music, but interacting with the crews and personnel. I have friends that I met in 1990 as operations assistant that I’ve kept in contact with and have become friends with.”

9. What has been your favorite performing arts show?
“I would have to say anytime we do anything with Houston Ballet and the last opera that we did 'La bohème' and Children’s Festival.”

10. Do you have any cool backstage stories?
“Too many that I can’t repeat probably. One time one of the artists wanted us to remove all the furniture from the dressing room so he could put a tent up with a plethora of ferns and plants and use it as a meditation room.”

11. What would you say is the best part about working at The Pavilion?
“Working with all the people. I know it sounds cliché’ but working with our Board of Directors, staff, supervisors, law enforcement, vendors, volunteers and road crew over the years is the best part for me! Being associated with the best in the business is really very cool and rewarding!”

12. Most important question ever…Dr. Pepper or Root Beer?
“Dr. Pepper.

13. If you could only eat one meal for the rest of your life what would it be?
“Crab legs, but I don’t think I’d survive very long because of the butter but it would be fun while it lasted.”

14. When you were younger what did you want to be when you grew up?
“My guidance counselor told me to be a hairdresser so I don’t know what that says, but I wanted to be Jacque Cousteau and swim with the sharks.”

15. What’s your favorite movie of all time?
“I couldn’t possibly limit that to just one, that’s a long range. ‘Shawshank Redemption’ and ‘Star Wars’” (he even has R2D2 in his office).

16. If you could meet anyone dead or alive who would it be and why?
“Will Ferrell, Bill Murray, Steve Martin and Robin Williams because they are incredibly funny and witty.”

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