Marsha Dobrzynski, Executive Director, Young Audiences of Northeast Ohio
2011 MARTHA JOSEPH PRIZE FOR DISTINGUISHED SERVICE TO THE ARTS
Marsha Dobrzynski has spent the past 17 years making
sure that as many children as possible throughout Northeast Ohio have
equal access to a well-rounded education that includes the arts, In her
position of executive director of Young Audiences of Northeast Ohio,
she and her staff work to ensure that students in this region enjoy the
educational and personal growth benefits of learning from the
professional artists who work in their schools.
Audiences (YA) designs programs to support different areas of the curriculum
by having the artists use their diverse disciplines to enhance learning
in math, science or social studies, for example.
arts are a vital component of everything those children do in their
every day lives,” says Dobrzynski. “Our artists are creative
individuals who look at things in a different way, and they keep the
kids on their toes, thinking all the time, so it’s inspiring to see.”
her direction, Young Audiences has significantly expanded its programs
and its reach. When she started in 1994, the Young Audiences roster
numbered 20 individual artists; now there are more than 120. At that
time, the organization was producing 750 programs in the schools; last
year, they did 7,100 programs.
YA has also expanded its geographic range from six counties to 18 counties in northeastern Ohio. Dobrzynski
is particularly proud of a program Young Audiences initiated seven
years ago, especially since it’s one that reaches children outside
their schools: ArtWorks, the summer multidisciplinary, job-training
program for high school students.
While the six-week program does provide training in the arts, it also
develops important workplace skills such as teamwork, creative problem
solving and personal responsibility. ArtWorks has grown tremendously,
as well, from 50 students the first summer to 130 “apprentices” from
nearly 60 different high schools.
“To see the impact of the arts on a personal level on those teenagers
is incredible,” she says. “I don’t like to use the cliché that it’s a
‘life-changing’ experience, but you do see that with many of the kids.”
Fittingly, Dobrzynski has
her own children to thank for connecting her to Young Audiences. The
Rochester, New York, native had only recently moved to Cleveland with
her husband and two daughters from Montreal, Canada. One Sunday
afternoon for Valentine’s Day, her husband, whose management consulting
business kept him busy during the week, took the two little girls to a
Young Audiences program at the Natural History Museum, so she could
enjoy some quiet time at home.
days later, recalling the sheer delight in her daughters’ faces as they
excitedly recounted all of the dancing and drumming they had done
during the program, she contacted Young Audiences to volunteer.
A few years later, inspired by her experience with the organization,
Marsha decided to make a major career change to nonprofit management.
(She had earned her bachelor’s and graduate degrees in nursing and
worked as a nurse, prior to moving to Cleveland.) Then, while she
was completing the certificate program at the Mandel Center for
Nonprofit Organizations at Case Western Reserve University, Young
Audiences asked her to serve as its interim executive director. Four
months later, they made the appointment permanent.
Despite the fact that her organization is now active in 250 schools serving more than 220,000 children, Marsha Dobrzynski will
not be happy until she provides Young Audiences’ arts education
programs to every one of her young constituents in Northeast Ohio.
“There are more than three-quarters of a million kids in this 18-county
area,” she says, “so we have a long way to go to reach all of those