Employee Q&A: UApresents Development Director Itzik Becher

Employee Q&A: UApresents Development Director Itzik Becher

By Shelley SheltonUniversity Communications
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Itzik Becher
Itzik Becher

Name: Itzik Becher
Position: Director of Development for UApresents
Number of years at the UA: Six months
Favorite thing about working at the UA: Being able to really have a fantastic playground with amazing people around me. I come from a private entity, and for me to have so many people to collaborate with is just spectacular.
Favorite aspect of theatrical production: There is a big thrill in starting something from nothing and bringing it to the end.

Itzik Becher – pronounced "IT-zick Becker" – is no stranger to show business.

He's the founder of Phoenix-based artist management company Aviv Productions Inc., which has represented such big names as Woody Allen and his New Orleans Jazz Band and Peter, Paul & Mary.

He moved his family to Scottsdale from New York City eight years ago, and although he was named on June 18 as UApresents' director of development – a position he served in on an interim basis for six months before that – his family will stay up north until his youngest daughter finishes high school in a few years.

A native of Israel, Becher was a pop star there in his own right many years ago. You can hear him sing if you search YouTube.

He was wooed to UApresents after meeting Executive Director Chuck Tennes about a year and a half ago at a conference in New York, he says.

"I liked the way he was thinking about the arts and looking at the bigger picture of UApresents, Tucson, the Southwest and the arts," Becher says. "And I just in passing told him, 'If you ever need some help, I'm not far away from you.' And a year after that, they were in great need of a director of development."

Becher began on an interim basis and was eventually selected from a pool of candidates after going through a formal search process.

Fundraising is nothing new to him, he says. When his company put on very big productions, he had to solicit money to finance them.

He's proud of some of the partnerships he already has helped UApresents form, including scheduling shows at the Westin La Paloma Resort and Spa and making use of Club Congress and the Rialto Theatre downtown as UApresents venues.

Holding shows downtown adds an aura of hipness, he says.

"And it should. We're a university. We have kids here."

Becher recently took time to talk to Lo Que Pasa about his career.

What was your first job?
I was an assistant editor for a magazine and then I became the editor of the magazine in Israel, many moons ago. And I have some crazy things on my map. I was a singer. I was a fairly known pop singer in Israel, many years ago with quite a few No. 1 hit singles. That's crazy. My children, I never told them, and then it started coming out, and then they're, "Whaaat?" And then they're looking for newspaper clips and then they YouTubed. It was very funny.

Describe what you do.
It used to be, many years ago, that working for a company was very compartmentalized. You can't work like this anymore, you really can't. We had a staff meeting today, and one of the things I realized … I'm the director of development so officially I'm the one who's supposed to solicit for funds and go after grants. But actually if you really look at it, each and every one of them (the staffers) is actually fundraising for me because in their daily duties they encounter various aspects that actually stretch into the community. And one of the most exciting things is that I can't tell you that one day looks exactly like the other day. And also it's changing dramatically because when I came in, I was working toward this very specific goal. We were about to launch a new season, and I needed to get our sponsors in place. There was no one here that did it before, which means that in less than two months I did them all. Not knowing anyone. So it was long nights of research and finding who is who and reaching out. A lot of face-to-face meetings. We achieved our goal. Now we have to move forward. And now I think the great thing about it is that there is a very strong sense of a team that thinks about a global picture. And now therefore sometimes I will go out with Chuck for a meeting that is supposedly not related to what I'm doing, but it is related. If I know of or see any artists that I think would do well because we have the community for it, then I say whatever I have to say (to let someone know). Now what I'm really concentrating on is really opening the doors and trying to solicit with national major foundations. … UApresents is probably one of the most important organizations in this part of the world. Artists want to come here, this part of the United States. … When it comes to fundraising, I can't begin to tell you what a generous community this is. … I'm still in awe of the people that live here.

If you didn't have this job, what career would you have?
I would probably be a doctor. … At a certain point in my life, many years ago in New York, I decided to go back to school and get my Ph.D. in clinical psychology. Because I felt that it was a little too late for me (to become a medical doctor). I had children already …. I went to school for a year because I wanted to be in a helping profession, but my business took off in such a way that I just couldn't. … I love helping people.

Who or what has inspired you in your career?
One of my artists, who is a very good friend of mine, a very big singer out of Israel who is here also, is a real person that I listen to. Chava Alberstein. She's a very, very big singer, world music singer out of Israel. Was born in Poland, though. Very wise and extremely authentic. And that's the key to everything, in my opinion. There's a lot of BS in the world today.

What advice would you offer to someone just starting out?
Don't sell out. Don't sell out. Don't sell out. My opinion is that people are good. Most of them are good. People want to be there for you. Be true to yourself. I could not sell anything that I do not believe in. … I keep saying to myself that if you are true to yourself, if you are not a liar, people will follow you. People will want to be part of what you do. And so far in my life, it has worked. I don't have a yacht yet or a private plane, but I'm OK. Kids nowadays are fooling themselves. They want to be famous. They want to be rich. There is a path. And it's fine. … It's a process, and one of the main important parts. People really want results without the process. And it's really stupid, because the process is sometimes so fun. Not always – sometimes it's hard. But if you realize that it's something that you'll never get to do again, enjoy the path.

How would you like to spend your retirement?
Whoa! I'm not going to retire, ever. I'm a workaholic, big-time. I will have to do something. I will probably travel if I can afford it. I'm not the type that sleeps in tents. I will have to travel and be in a hotel. I love cities, I'm not such a country boy. So probably I will always do something, maybe not that intense but I think I will always do something as long as I can. … Let me put it this way: I'm not moving to Florida to retire and go to the 5 o'clock special in the diner.

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