150 Profiles: Katherine Carleton

As we mark the 150th anniversary of confederation, The Philanthropist is profiling Canadians from across the non-profit sector and putting a face to 150 individuals who work or volunteer in Canada’s social sector.

Name: Katherine Carleton

Current role in the sector: Executive Director of Orchestras Canada/Orchestres Canada, the national association for Canadian orchestras

Years working and/or volunteering in the non-profit sector:  33 years.

What was your first job in the sector or a defining moment?
My first job after university was in the Publicity Department of the Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto, where I typed concert programs (badly) on an IBM Selectric, had ongoing disputes with the foot pedal of a Dictaphone, and managed the faculty concert series. The net impact? I am a big proponent of better technology, and I deeply enjoy working with and on behalf of musicians.

Describe your desk/workspace.
My desk is, and has always been, chaos.  I justify this by reminding people that I can always find what I’m looking for.  My office furniture reflects my style:  I’m restless, and I’m convinced that there is no such thing as a single perfect working posture, so I have a standing desk, a sitting desk, a regular desk chair, a kneeling chair, and a Morris chair, as well as a yoga mat.  My proudest office ornaments are two works of art presented to me by the musicians of orchestras that I’ve worked for:  a piece called Opening Night by Kingston violinist and artist Joan Sutherland (presented to me by the musicians of the Kingston Sympony), and a glorious photograph of a spring forest by Nova Scotia photographer Stephen Patterson (a gift from the musicians of Symphony Nova Scotia).

What are you reading or following that has expanded your understanding of the non-profit sector?
Philip Hart’s Orpheus in the New World was my door-opener.  Published in 1973, it’s a series of case studies about the remarkable people who helped establish and develop symphony orchestras in the United States.  I read it when I was working on my master’s at McGill, and it was a useful corrective to my search for the ideal organizational structure for a symphony orchestra.  Again and again, Hart quietly makes the point that exceptional people create the conditions for success – something I find both inspiring and terrifying.

What do you think our sector needs to be thinking about?
I like to think about the inter-generational transfer of wealth and knowledge from an institutional perspective:  we built a lot of not for profit institutions in the 20th century, and we’re putting a lot of effort into dragging them into the 21st.  Can they adapt?  Can they share what they have and know with the growing number of movement-based social change efforts?  What can all participants on the “social good” spectrum – from institutions to pop-ups, and all points in between – learn from one another?  How can we manifest the generosity that characterizes our sector as we collectively consider our future? That’s what I’d like to know more about!

Do you know someone we should profile as part of this series? Email us at philanthropistprofiles@gmail.com


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