Biography: Rick Lester
Rick Lester built TRG Arts on a 30-year career in entertainment marketing. Since founding the firm in 1995 as Lester & Associates, Rick and his partners have built TRG into America’s largest consulting company dedicated to arts and culture.
Rick leads TRG’s counsel on patron behavior trends and their impact on patronage and revenue generation for organizations and communities. His pioneering work in demand management, pricing and cost-of-sale focus in marketing have become industry best practices. Hundreds of organizations in North America have generated successful revenue and audience results by following the data-driven strategies and counsel that Rick and his TRG colleagues recommend.
In his frequent appearances as presenter, workshop leader, and panelist at arts and culture conferences nationwide, Rick has influenced the industry’s ideas about ticket pricing, patron loyalty, and metrics for institutional health. Rick also invests in developing the next generation of arts and culture administrators. He is a distinguished visiting professor at the Meadows School of the Arts at Southern Methodist University (Dallas). He also is a guest lecturer for arts management programs, including the Yale School of Drama at Yale University, the Bolz Center for Arts Administration at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Business, and the Breech School of Business Administration at Drury University (MO).
Early career success leading the marketing programs for the Cincinnati Symphony and The Cleveland Orchestra led Rick to senior leadership positions in the orchestra field. He was president / executive director of the San Antonio Symphony, the Charlotte Symphony Orchestra of North Carolina, and the Knoxville Symphony in Tennessee. In each of these organizations, Rick helped achieve records for both earned and contributed revenues. For more than a decade before he founded Lester & Associates, Rick had also been a freelance consultant to orchestras, as well as to numerous state and national nonprofit organizations.
Rick has assisted with projects for the American Symphony Orchestra League (now the League of Orchestras) where he was both vice chair and chair of Group 2 Orchestra Managers and a frequent presenter. For the National Endowment for the Arts, he was a member of the National Endowment for the Art’s Challenge Panel for Policy Review, the Pew Charitable Trusts, and the Cleveland Foundation.
He holds a B.A. in political science from Drury University and today serves as an officer on his alma mater’s board of directors. Rick earned his M.B.A from Queens University in Charlotte. He also serves on the board of SMU’s National Center for Arts Research.