MEET: Will Beekman, executive director of the F.M. Kirby Center for the Performing Arts
First Posted: 3/2/2015
Will Beekman is the executive director of The F.M. Kirby Center for the Performing Arts in Wilkes-Barre. Beekman, 36, is a native of Tobyhanna and is a 1996 graduate of Pocono Mountain High School. He attended Penn State University, where he received a bachelor’s degrees in English and journalism. He has worked at the Kirby Center for five years and became managing director in December of 2013. He was named executive director a year later. He and his wife, Katie, have a daughter, Hannah, 20 months. They live in Avoca.
How did you fist end up working in the arts and entertainment business? I met my future wife while working for the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins, and it wasn’t going to work – working with my wife. We decided if we were serious about our relationship, we needed to work in separate places. I started looking for jobs and one jumped out at me that was out at Penn State – my alma mater. I was in marketing at the time, and it was a marketing position out at the Bryce Jordan Center. I’d obviously worked in sports, but I didn’t know a ton about live events and concerts, but I knew that’s where my heart was. I’m a big music guy and it was something I wanted to try and get involved with. I took a shot at it, got the job, and absolutely feel in love with the industry.
And that eventually brought you to The Kirby? About three years later, we were married and living at State College, and it was fun. But we wanted to start a family, and we wanted to do that closer to our families back here, so we started looking for jobs back this way. Preferably, I wanted to stay in the same field. Luckily, there was a director of marketing position open here at the Kirby Center, and I interviewed for that, and got the job.
What do you enjoy about it? There are so many things. I enjoy the people I work with. And I enjoy the fact I get to come to this beautiful building every day. If I’m having a bad day, I’ll sometimes just walk downstairs and walk through the theater. It kind of reminds you that there are a lot of people who would like to say they work here. I feel lucky to say that. I also like working with the promoters. And I like working with the agents. I book all of the shows here, and I really like the art of negotiating with the agents to bring acts into town. There’s something very satisfying about starting from point-A and eventually seeing the concert come to your stage.
What do you do in your free time to relax? It depends on the time of year. Year round, I’m playing with my daughter. It’s my favorite thing to do. I drive home a little faster these days, just to see her. And we love travelling when we can.
Follow sports? I’m a huge Mets fan. With baseball season coming up, I’ll be miserable for the next couple of months. My wife yells at me, because it really does affect the way I sleep or my mood for the evening. If they lose, I’m not really happy again until they win. And they haven’t done a lot a winning for the past couple of years. But I never miss an Opening Day. I always go. Hannah’s name is actually after Shea Stadium. It’s Hannah Shea.
Any hobbies? I just recently, over the past four or five years, started collecting vinyl records. It kind of works out for me that Record Store Day every year is not long after my birthday, so when my family asks what I want for my birthday, I tell them I want a Gallery of Sound gift certificate. I stack those up, and I go on Record Store Day, and I spend them. This past year, I also bought my daughter some records I thought she might like someday, and I bought her first record player.
Who are some of your favorite artists? Tom Waits is right up there. He’s definitely on my bucket list. These days, I go from ‘wanting to see’ to ‘wanting to book.’ I’d be happy to see him, and I’d love to book him. His old tour manger was here with Elvis Costello, and I asked if he’d ever tour again one day, and he said, ‘If you ask him, he’ll tell you no, but I believe he will.’ So I’m holding out hope for that. I’m also a big Ramones fan. One of my greatest memories is seeing them in concert around 1994 or 1995. It sounds so cliché to say you listen to everything, but I really do, depending on the day of the week or my mood. I’ll listen to old-school country right on through to gangster rap. But if I had to pick one album, I’d say any Ramones record. The Beatles’ ‘Abbey Road’ isn’t bad either.
Favorite color? Carolina blue.
First car? A red 1986 Chevy Cavalier. It barely ran. My buddy told me it was a good punk rock car, and I think that was probably the best compliment you could pay it.
Favorite holiday? Definitely Christmas.
Favorite city? New York City.
Favorite vacation spot? Hawaii.
Favorite food? Mexican.
Favorite movie? It’s a tossup between ‘A Bronx Tale’ or ‘Young Frankenstein.’
Favorite TV show? ‘The Honeymooners.’
Favorite quote? It’s a song lyric. I think Kris Kristofferson might be the best songwriter I’ve ever come across, and he has a line in the song called ‘The Pilgrim, Chapter 33’ where he says, ‘From the rocking of the cradle, to the rolling of the hearse, the going up was worth the coming down.’
Favorite book? Moby Dick. I’ve read it twice, and I’ll still go back and just read that opening page from time to time. I don’t know what is it … I just love the imagery.”
Is there something about you that might surprise even your friends? I don’t know if they’d be surprised by it, but I call my parents every night at 9 p.m. and tell them I love them. That’s important to me.
Is there a defining moment, or a person in your life, that helped make you the person you are today? I don’t know if I have a specific moment, but I can go back to my parents and say that they definitely molded me into the person I am today. I get my work ethic from my Dad, and I’m not afraid to get my hands dirty and work hard, and I appreciate that. And I appreciate my mom always telling me, ‘Stay in school and get good grades. You’re going to want to go to a good school and you’re going to want to go to a job that you like. There’s nothing worse than going to a job you don’t like every day.’ I think of her every day when I come here, because there isn’t a day that I come here that I don’t want to be here. And I think I’m a very caring individual, which I also get from my parents. My parents are very loving and overprotective, and I’m very much a worrier now that I have a child. The person that I am very much comes from them.