The summer before her senior year of college, Amy Grossmann was in New York with some friends and walking around Lincoln Center, the famed performing arts complex.

The Metropolitan Opera House was in front of her. The Avery Fisher concert hall was on her right.

“I had an epiphany,” she said. “I looked at those buildings and realized, ‘Someone manages those.’ The artists don’t just show up and go on stage. There’s a whole business behind that.”

She decided then to pursue a career in arts management.

Grossmann, 43, is director of the inaugural N.C. Folk Festival, and also serving as interim chief executive officer of ArtsGreensboro, the nonprofit organization producing the festival.

The event is a spinoff of the annual National Folk Festival, which took place in Greensboro from 2015 to 2017 (and which Salisbury, Maryland, will host this year).

The line-up for the N.C. Folk Festival includes fiddler Rhiannon Giddens, choro group Trio Brasileiro and country singer and yodeler Kristyn Harris. As was the case during the National Folk Festival, performances will be staged in various locations around downtown Greensboro.

Before coming to the Gate City, Grossmann had worked for arts organizations in Maryland and California. She had also done a stint as a program assistant at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C.

A native of upstate New York, Grossmann grew up playing the violin and later took up piano. At the State University of New York at Geneseo, she started off as a math major, thinking she might become an actuary.

“But, at some point, I decided I didn’t want to punch numbers the rest of my life,” she said. “And I’d always had a passion for music. I worked in the music department at Geneseo and helped manage the different musical ensembles and the music library.”

Following her visit to Lincoln Center, she asked her academic adviser about how to pursue a career as an arts administrator. After graduating from Geneseo, she went on to earn a master’s degree in arts management from American University.

In 2014, after the Gate City was chosen to host the National Folk Festival, Grossmann saw ArtsGreensboro was looking to hire someone to serve as a point person for the event. She had previously worked at the National Council for the Traditional Arts, which produces the festival.

She began working at the organization just after the New Year in 2015, and took over as interim CEO in July of this year after Tom Philion stepped down.

Philion, who served as CEO for eight years and will remain with ArtsGreensboro as an adviser until September, said the organization is “very lucky to have her” at the helm.

“She’s an excellent event producer, has a lot of experience working with artists,“ he said. “And she’s passionate about the celebration of cultural traditions. Since coming to North Carolina, she’s really dug into all the cultures that make up our state.”

Whether Grossmann will apply for the CEO job is “yet to be determined,” she said, and for the time being, she is focused on making sure the Folk Festival comes together. She’s also looking at ways the festival can have a presence year-round, possibly by hosting shows in other parts of the state.

“What I love hearing about is people coming to hear one type of music or a particular group at the festival and then enjoying another type of music,” she said. “People will come to hear bluegrass, but then listen to a Portuguese Fado singer. So they walk away with an appreciation for a music that they didn’t even know they would enjoy.”

Contact Robert C. Lopez at

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