Portland’5 Centers for the Arts is pleased to announce that Tom Sessa has been named the organization’s Director of Booking and Sales. Sessa, general manager of the Aladdin Theater, was chosen after a national search was conducted. He starts June 9.
“We are thrilled to have Tom join the Portland’5 team,” says Portland’5 executive director Robyn Williams. “His knowledge of the local market and experience in working with both commercial and not for profit organizations make him a natural to grow business for our venues.”
Sessa comes to Portland’5 after spending 20 years at the Aladdin Theater and working with the Aladdin’s concert partners, promoters True West and Bear Concerts. His career at the Aladdin spans the contemporary evolution of Portland’s venues industry and the rebirth of the historic Aladdin from an adult movie theater to a cornerstone of the Northwest venues scene.
“Tom was always someone I could count on to get the job done,” says Bear Concerts owner Steve Reischman. “He will be greatly missed.”
Sessa started at the Aladdin as a ticket taker and venue cleaner and eventually worked nearly every job there – great and small. That trajectory from ticket taker to general manager has given Sessa experience in virtually every corner of the venues industry: management, concessions, customer service, ticketing, sales, concert booking, accounting, marketing and sponsor solicitation.
This being the venues world, Sessa’s also had the honor and pleasure to witness – and deal with casual aplomb – all kinds of unexpected situations that only the venues industry allows, sometimes in one evening: angry or rowdy customers, eccentric performers that have shown up late, and much, much more.
So why leave a job where he’s clearly beloved and one that also remains interesting?
Sessa says he wanted to “focus on aspects of the performing arts that are closer to my heart, such as classical music, dance, Broadway shows and opera.” Sessa’s an accomplished percussionist, holds a degree in music performance and also teaches at the University of Portland as an adjunct professor of percussion. He has also performed regularly with the Oregon Symphony Orchestra and other local music groups for more than a decade.
So when the Portland’5 job came around, Sessa says, it was too good an opportunity to turn down. The Portland’5 staff was accomplished and respected, its venues were among the best in the region, and the job “combines my vast experience in the concert industry with my desire to better serve the local community by promoting the performing arts.”
Still, leaving wasn’t easy. Sessa had been at the Aladdin for 20 years. That’s a lot of history and relationships.
“I am leaving a business that I put my heart and soul into. I am also leaving a group of people whom I consider part of my family.”
With Sessa’s arrival, Williams says the Portland’5 booking director’s job will expand to include greater business development duties than it did before. Sessa says he’s ready for the additional challenge.
“Business development and sales of venues and services are jobs that I have many years of experience with and am very comfortable with performing,” Sessa says. “My plan is to focus on how we can work with local arts groups and promoters, and eventually with national arts groups and promoters, in order to bring more business to the venues of Portland’5.”
Contact: December Carson, Public Relations