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March 5, 2010

Spotlight on Sara Sanders

By Joanne Navarre
Sara Sanders, UMS Front-of-House Coordinator

Sara Sanders, UMS Front-of-House Coordinator

If you’ve attended a performance presented by UMS in the last three seasons, you may have seen Sara Sanders in the lobby.  As UMS’s Front-of-House Coordinator, Sara manages everything that happens “in the house” and off the stage from the auditorium to the lobby and beyond.   Sara recruits and trains the UMS Usher Corps, handles patrons’ issues, and generally tries to make sure everyone is happy and having a great experience when they attend a UMS performance.

Outside of the performance venues, Sara is pursuing a Masters degree in Public Administration, with a focus on non-profit organizations, at Eastern Michigan University.

Recently I sat down with Sara and asked her a few questions to help us all get to know her better.

JN: What is your performing arts/musical background?
SS:  I was in Footloose at Fowlerville High.  I also tried violin and piano.

JN:  What do you want to be when you grow up?
SS:  Ken Fischer!  No, really, I’d like to work in non-profit arts administration.  Ideally, I’d like to work with an under-served population.

JN:  What is your biggest challenge as a front-of-house coordinator?
SS:  Balancing everyone’s needs . . . the ushers, the patrons, the staff, the artists.

JN:  If there was one thought you’d like to convey to UMS audience members, what would it be?
SS:  Please be on time for performances.

JN: What audience behaviors elicit the most complaints?
SS:  I hear a lot of complaints about the use of cameras and cell phones during performances.  People also talk to me about other patrons coughing.  We provide cough drops to help with that problem.

JN:  What is the time commitment for a UMS usher?
SS:  Full-time ushers can work up to 50 hours in a season at Hill Auditorium.  The time commitment for people who work on multiple crews can be twice or three times as many hours, when including some of our other venues.  We couldn’t operate without our volunteers, and we very much appreciate all they do for us.

JN: What changes have you seen in audiences over the three years you’ve been in your job?
SS: It’s not a culture change, but it seems like people have more interest in UMS and have more knowledge of the organization.  I’ve also seen a lot more students in the audience than before.

JN:  What was your favorite UMS performance so far?
SS:  Without a doubt, it was Complicite’s A Disappearing Number.

JN:  Describe a perfect day.
SS:  Lots of sunshine; warm, but not too warm; being out and about in Ypsilanti (I’m having a love affair with Ypsilanti).

JN:  What’s your favorite meal?
SS:  Breakfast, if it’s done right.


Joanne is the UMS Manager of Annual Giving. When she's not in the office, you can usually find her at a local hockey rink.