Nao Tsurumaki is not in Kansas anymore, and he gives much credit to Daytona State College for helping him craft a career in performing arts management.
Interviewed from his office in Washington, D.C., where the 2004 Daytona State alumnus holds his dream job as executive director of the prestigious Children’s Chorus of Washington, Tsurumaki recalled his college experience. “What a period of self-discovery,” he said, noting it had a profound impact on his personal and professional development.
As an exchange student from Japan attending high school in Kansas back around 2001, Tsurumaki began contemplating where he would attend college. He researched a number of Florida institutions, but chose Daytona State because of how the admissions team welcomed him. “They took care of me from the start . . . so much better than anyone else,” he said. “They were there every step of the way right up through the enrollment process.”
Daytona State also was affordable and gave Tsurumaki time to explore his strengths and interests. He was originally interested in studying filmmaking. But English Professor Kenneth Walker (recently retired) pointed him toward the theater while Tsurumaki took his speech communication class.
“As the semester progressed, whenever we sat down, we never talked about my speeches. It was really all about how he thought I should get involved with the theater department and how he felt it had a place for me,” Tsurumaki said. “Then one day, he literally handed me a script and a rehearsal schedule and told me I was a stage manager. I didn’t even know what that meant or why he wanted me to do it, but within a month I was on a production.”
“The rest,” he added, “is history.”
With his associate of arts degree in hand, Tsurumaki transferred to the University of Central Florida and earned a bachelor’s degree in theater. Then on to New York, he interned on Broadway for four months with Disney Theatrical Productions, learning as much as he could about theater company management. That experience led to a return to Florida as general manager of the Orlando Repertory Theater, a position he held for seven years before heading to the nation’s capital to manage international programming at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. Tsurumaki has led the Children’s Chorus of Washington, widely considered one of the finest children’s choral ensembles in the country, since August last year. He also is pursuing his master’s degree in non-profit management at George Mason University.
Tsurumaki traces the root of his success to his Daytona State experience. “Today, everything we are doing at the Children’s Chorus of Washington is very exciting, and I constantly draw from the things I learned in college to help me,” he said. “Daytona State absolutely affected me deeply. It set me on course for the long haul.”