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Class of 2009 Profile: Viswa Subbaraman, Texas MBA at Houston

Viswa SubbaramanAs co-founder and artistic director of Houston’s newest contemporary opera company, Opera Vista, Viswa Subbaraman, MBA ’09, knows his way around a musical production. Overtures, sonatas, minor keys—this has been the language of Subbaraman’s world. SWOT analyses and balance sheets? Not quite. At least not until he entered McCombs. “Arts foundations face enormous challenges in today’s economic climate,” says Subbaraman, who honed his craft in Paris by way of a Fulbright Grant. “I came to the McCombs School to gain an understanding of the business strategies arts foundations need to survive, and now business thinking is just as much a part of my career as artistic creation.” Subbaraman says art institutions are going through a fundamental restructuring and will no longer be able to rely solely on funding from donors or from grants and foundations. Economic hard times mean that funding for the arts has become harder to obtain, he says. “I don’t believe the arts are going to die, but I do believe we have to rethink the way we go about running them,” Subbaraman says. So far, Subbaraman’s creative and business instincts have been spot on. The Houston Press, reviewing the inaugural Opera Vista Festival in 2007 said, “If Opera Vista’s artistic director/co-founder Viswa Subbaraman continues on such a high, future full houses are assured, and we can look forward to some exciting nights at the opera.” Subbaraman says he did not realize music as his own calling until his sophomore year of college at Duke University. He entered school wanting to become a doctor, but he ultimately earned dual degrees in biology and music. “What drew me to music was its incredible communicative power,” says Subbaraman. “The reason it has survived and will continue to survive is that it communicates the human experience.” He believes the work of great classical composers has endured for hundreds of years because it conveys ideals about freedom, democracy and other universal human ideals. “Beethoven is a great example of this,” he says. “In fact, he dedicated his third symphony to Napoleon when Napoleon was elected to be the leader of France. The day that Napoleon declared himself emperor, Beethoven scratched his name out in such a fury that you can still see the hole in the manuscript. Composers are still writing music about the times they live in.” Subbaraman hopes Opera Vista—which counts three of Subbaraman’s Texas MBA at Houston classmates as board members —will become an important contributor to the art form’s legacy and staying power. His goal for Opera Vista is for it to become nationally recognized as a creative and cutting-edge institution and for its annual opera festival to become an influential industry competition. “I believe the business model we are pursuing can become a flagship for other organizations,” he says. “And since we are a startup organization, we have the opportunity to create a company culture of fiscal responsibility and cultural creativity.” By Behnaz Abolmaali

Comments

#1 Good luck with your venture,

Good luck with your venture, Viswa. I am glad and refreshed to see such an important yet unique use of an MBA. I hope to see Opera Vista's name in big lights some day.

#2 Good luck Viswa going

Good luck Viswa going forward! And congratulations on your graduation.

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