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Andrew Paa Headshot

Meet the Staff: Andrew Paa, Communications Strategist

Q: You’re originally from South Dakota. Can you tell us about your life there growing up and why you chose to move to Ohio?

Yeah, I grew up in Sioux Falls, which is the largest city in South Dakota. Its population was below 125,000 when I was a kid, but now it’s around 200,000 residents. Overall, it had and continues to have a strong arts scene. Performing and visual arts are in the public and private schools. Plus, when I was kid, they completely remodeled a former high school in the downtown area into what’s now known as the Washington Pavilion of Arts and Science. The concert halls are really wonderful, and I saw many performances there. Aside from music, I was also into academics in high school, particularly science, so a single building housing two of my passions was great for me. 

My stint in Ohio was only supposed to be two years when I arrived in 2012. I originally came here to study chamber music at Kent State University with violinist Cathy Menga picture of a violin in its case Robinson and cellist Keith Robinson of the Miami String Quartet. Then, I wanted to go on for my Doctor of Musical Arts. Instead, after graduating from Kent State, I enrolled in the University of Akron’s arts administration program to get a better understanding of the business side of the arts and nonprofits.

Q: You’ve spent a lot of time in Akron and Kent over the last 10 years. What were your favorite parts of being in those cities, and how are you finding Columbus now that you’re getting settled here?

For me, Northeast Ohio provided a lot of opportunities personally and professionally. The arts and culture scene is fantastic with museums, orchestras, arts organizations, and galleries around what seemed like every corner. I also really love the Cuyahoga Valley National Park. I spent a lot of time there with my camera, taking pictures of whatever I could find. A few years ago, I devoted myself to getting better acquainted with photography, both the technical and artistic aspects, and the national park was a great place to learn about both.

Andrew Paa hiking in the Cuyahoga Valley National ParkMoving to Columbus has been great for me so far. I had been here several times for professional and personal purposes since moving to Ohio. Now that I’m living here, I’m discovering new things all the time. I can’t wait to meet some new people and experience all that Columbus has to offer. I’ll definitely be heading to Hocking Hills for a hike soon!

Q: Like a few of us on staff, you are an artist in your own right. You’re an accomplished violinist with a master’s in performance and another in chamber music. Why the violin? What about the instrument speaks to you?

I wasn’t even supposed to play a string instrument. My elementary school hosted some sort of instrument or music open house, and I was actually set to start trombone in fifth grade when band started in my school district. I was one of the tallest kids, so my long arms would’ve been perfect for the slide it uses to produce pitches. I don’t even remember why now, but I didn’t end up starting. Instead, one day, a friend of mine invited me to orchestra. After that, I just remember telling my parents I wanted to play violin and we found one for me.

It wasn’t an instant love exactly, but I really enjoyed playing and it was a great way for me to make friends. My love of the instrument itself came later, after hearing violinist Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg play Camille Saint-Saëns’ “Havanaise.” It’s a beautiful work that really showcases the violin and what it can do. That was early in high school and from then on, I started practicing more and listening to a lot of classical music. Eventually, I also started taking lessons with a wonderful teacher, Maria Peters.

Q: How do you see your musical background playing a role in your work as a communications strategist at the OAC?

I’ve been a musician for over 25 years, mostly studying Western classical music. Over the last few years, I’ve been trying to dive into styles and genres beyond that. I’mAndrew Paa performing a Christmas concert with other musicians generally a very curious person who likes to learn, so I think that will serve me well in this role as I seek to explore, understand, and help tell the story of the arts in Ohio.

Q: What do you like to do outside of work?

I like to get outside for a hike, head to the gym, do yoga, or find a new restaurant to try. Often, my camera comes with me on a hike. Landscapes, sunsets, and photos of what I discover on the trails are some of my favorite images. I also try to keep up with violin, whether I’m teaching, practicing, or doing a gig somewhere.

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