Penn State College of Arts and Architecture
Center for the Performing Arts at Penn State

Center seeks volunteers for performing-arts events

By Cale Blakely

Program perks include free performances, discount-ticket program


Volunteers are the backbone of most nonprofit arts organizations. Passionate about the arts, they silently stand on the front lines with a smile on their face, ready to help the swathes of people who come to see the show.

The Center for the Performing Arts is no different, having a rotating group 65 enthusiastic volunteers to helm the variety of events. The house volunteers use friendly methods and complete a variety of tasks to help improve the experience of anyone who attends an event at the center, including greeting audience members, guiding patrons to their seats and passing out OnStage programs.

Center Audience Service Manager Kelly Kaiserian manages the crew of volunteers, and guides them to ensure the audience’s safety, happiness and comfort throughout their time at the center.

But the center’s current numbers are a far cry from the pre-COVID times. Before the pandemic, the center had a volunteer crew of 115 helpers.

She said the task has become more challenging since losing close to half of her volunteers during lockdown. Each event typically requires a team of 25 to be fully staffed, so an average rotation of every other event can be tiring for the group.

“It's volunteer, I want it to be fun for everybody and only ask for what people are willing to give,” Kaiserian said.

Perks include free and discounted events

The center’s volunteer team consists of people from all walks of life, and Kaiserian said she welcomes anyone who want to join. Her crew includes high school and college students, retirees, and people with full time jobs looking to spend the night out in support of the arts.

Volunteers don’t just get the sense of a job well done for their service, though. In addition to seeing the event for free, each volunteer gets a punch card that gets marked for each show. When it’s full, it can be turned in for a youth-priced discount on any Center for the Performing Arts presentation.

“The money that some volunteers save from volunteering really adds up over time,” Kaiserian said.

Volunteering also serves as a way to introduce people to new shows and genres they may have never seen before.

Kaiserian said she does her best to make her volunteer staff feel like they are part of a family. She dresses up for each event with a small flair indicative of the show, and she said she encourages others to take part in her tradition. She said she wants to make the Center for the Performing Arts volunteer experience as open and connected as possible.

“They get to know each other, it’s a social environment. New members get paired up with a helper to get to learn about the other volunteers,” she said. “Joining our team is like joining a community.”

For more information about the volunteer process, contact Kaiserian by email at kvk2@psu.edu or by phone at 814-865-4727.

Cale Blakely is a communications intern for the Center for the Performing Arts.