For Ken Sebek, both accounting and classical music have been important aspects of his life. Now the retired CPA and former Texas Medical Center Orchestra (TMCO) executive director is looking forward to bringing those worlds together to help emerging artists.
Sebek is developing a financial coaching component for the career development workshop that YTA will offer later this year with concert pianist and emerging artist mentor Jade Simmons.
“I know some of the pitfalls young people can get into, that even adults can get into,” Sebek said. “It is so difficult for young artists to make it in the world and to do it in a financially sound way. So, I am hoping through some of my experience, I can help emerging artists get on the right path and avoid financial pitfalls.”
YTA’s career development workshop is still in the development stages and is tentatively scheduled to be presented late this spring.
Fork in the Road
Classical music has been close to Sebek’s heart since he was a teen.
“When I was in high school I was pretty good playing the French horn, and I did have a crossroads of ‘do I want to pursue that as professional or not?’” Sebek said.
Ultimately, concerned that a music career would leave him on financially shaky ground, Sebek pursued accounting. It wasn’t a decision he regretted.
“I became a CPA in the early ’80s and worked in oil and gas, primarily,” he said. “I traveled to about 30 different countries to do business for our companies, and it was just a blast. It was great exposure to different cultures and experiences, and I just loved it.”
That’s not to say that when the opportunity to perform arose, Sebek didn’t seize it.
A Homecoming of Sorts
In the 2000s, Sebek helped launch a brass group at the Houston church he and his wife, Terri Sebek, attended. From there, he and some other musicians organized more musical groups there. One of Sebek’s favorites was called New Horizons.
“It enabled people that hadn’t played their instruments in many years to start playing again in a fun surrounding,” he said. “We coached people that were 50, 60, 70 and 80 years old playing together, and that music was just beautiful. It was so pleasant to see the expressions on their faces.”
Before long, performing at his church opened the door for another rewarding experience. A friend in the orchestra told Sebek that the TMCO needed a substitute French horn player for an upcoming performance. Sebek agreed to help.
“From that moment, I was hooked,” Sebek said. “They asked me to continue on, and I was thrilled. So I just stayed in the orchestra.”
The appeal of TMCO was more than the opportunity to perform. It was about the other musicians, too.
“Most of the members in the orchestra had a medical career or were students in the medical field,” Sebek said. “They performed because the love of music.”
The orchestra satisfied a deep need to perform with others who shared the same passion, both for them and for Sebek.
“This is a fantastic orchestra repeatedly awarded as one of the top community orchestras in the nation,” he said. “So it was a great opportunity to play with a quality group, quality individuals, and play some beautiful music that I hadn’t played before.”
Sebek, who believes strongly in giving back to the companies and organizations he works with, later volunteered to serve on the TMCO board. And after board members discussed the need for an executive director, Sebek agreed to fill that role. Each time he stepped up, he saw it as an opportunity to support TMCO and position it for greater success.
Sebek stayed with TMCO for ten years, until he and his wife, Terri retired to the Lake Conroe area in 2018. Commuting to Houston for rehearsals and performances proved difficult, and Sebek decided to move on.
A Noble Cause
It wasn’t long after he moved to Montgomery County when Sebek read about Young Texas Artists. And shortly after that, he met YTA President/CEO Susie Moore Pokorski at church. Before long, they were discussing the possibility of Sebek becoming a YTA volunteer.
“Susie is a dynamic leader, and YTA is a beautiful organization,” Sebek said. “To help young Texas artists is a noble cause, and to give young Texas artists an opportunity to compete with one another and to learn through some of the workshops, it’s just brilliant.”
Sebek said he was inspired to add personal money management to YTA’s next career workshop after speaking with some of the organization’s prior competitors.
“It’s just hard to make money in the arts,” he said. “They have an uphill battle to make it in the world.
“I talked to one of the musicians about people flying to New York so they can get onto Broadway. That’s expensive, and there are ways to avoid some of those costs while still being able to pursue the dream. We want to help them understand what their options are and how to get there without getting into a financial crisis.”
Sebek said he hopes to see more people support YTA’s mission.
“Right now, with COVID-19, young artists have fewer performance opportunities, fewer teaching opportunities, fewer competitions. YTA is a good avenue for them to pursue their passions and their dreams.”