Joe McGoldrick (BUS 1972) arrived at Point Park more than four decades ago when he accompanied a friend on a campus visit. Interested in entertainment management (which was not a major at the time), he decided to stay to pursue a degree in business. As a student, McGoldrick worked at the Pittsburgh Playhouse and at the bowling alleys in the basement of Lawrence Hall. A stint as a campus tour guide turned into a job offer to become an admissions counselor upon graduation. McGoldrick found that he most enjoyed handling inquiries about Point Park’s blossoming programs in the performing arts, and the rest is history. 41 years later, McGoldrick is director of artistic recruitment for the Conservatory of Performing Arts. The role he says he likes best, however, is serving as COPA “ambassador” and alumni liaison. For McGoldrick, rarely a week goes by without getting an email or call from a Point Park graduate announcing a new gig or professional accomplishment. He spent some time talking with The Point:
Tell us about your role as director of artistic recruitment.
JM: I work with a wonderful team that includes two assistants, Bonnie Sampson and Michelle Krepp, and I work with all of the department chairs in the Conservatory. We strategize about how to look for prospective students, we set up the interviews and auditions and help plan their visit to Point Park, and finally, we let them know (by letter) whether or not they have been accepted for admission.
What advice do you provide to prospective students and parents?
JM: Among the most common questions we get are, ‘How do I prepare for the audition or interview?’ and ‘What are you looking for as the right student for Point Park?’ And of course the answer is different for each program. For cinema, for example, we want students to demonstrate creativity in any of a variety of different mediums, such as film, writing, photography or art. Dance students need to be involved in intensified training, about eight to 12 hours per week, in the three years prior to college. Theater students must be involved in theater, perhaps studying acting, voice or dance, in high school. It’s also very important to choose the right material for the audition. You need to make sure you know the material well and be able to support questions about the character or the play. We meet so many wonderful families, and we would like all of them to be part of the Conservatory, but it’s all about finding that talented student who stands out.
Do you provide feedback on an unsuccessful audition?
JM: I try to as much as I can. We can provide comments on their original audition, and make suggestions about working on speech, voice or song selection, for example. Prospective students can audition again a year later.
What are common characteristics among Conservatory students?
JM: They are truly dedicated. They have to be. You’ll find our cinema students working on film productions at night and on the weekends. Dance and theater students frequently practice on their own outside of class. It’s all about that dedication. Our students are actively involved in their major for all four years.
You graduated from Point Park in 1972. What’s changed over the years?
JM: Point Park has grown dramatically, especially in the past 10 years. Our Downtown campus is beautiful. With the new dance facilities in the George Rowland White Performance Center, and plans for a new Pittsburgh Playhouse in the heart of Downtown, Point Park has become an intricate part of what the city is about, and our students love that. We tell prospective students to talk to anyone they see in the hallways or on campus. They’ll tell them it’s a great place to live and go to school.
Tell us about your own Point Park experience.
JM: Point Park was much smaller in my student days. Of course we had the Pittsburgh Playhouse, where I had a work-study job. I also worked at the bowling alleys in the basement of Lawrence Hall. So I have been able to watch the University grow and develop over the years. After working here for a number of years, I remember giving some thought to my own career path and professional future. It was around that same time that I started getting calls from alumni saying, ‘guess what, I got this part!’ or, ‘I just had to let you know, I’m coming into town with a tour company!’ I remember one former student in particular: Rob Ashford (COPA 1982), who called to tell me when he got his first job in New York City [Ashford, who went on become an award-winning director and choreographer, has maintained close ties with McGoldrick and Point Park]. So I began to realize, this where I am supposed to be. It is part of my mission to help the Conservatory to grow. I have known all of the department chairs, deans and many University presidents and they have all supported me and helped me grow in this position. I am grateful to have had these wonderful people around me.
What are some of your favorite perks of the job?
JM: There are great perks that have come along with this position that I never would have dreamed I would have. For example, when legendary actress Shirley Jones [who got her start at the Pittsburgh Playhouse] was honored at Point Park’s Starmakers gala a few years ago, President Paul Hennigan asked me to serve as her escort for the event. What an honor to have that opportunity! She was so gracious and supportive of Point Park. It was a great experience, one to remember.
What has given you the most satisfaction in your work?
JM: It has been great to see how Point Park has evolved into one of the nation’s top performing arts schools. I especially enjoy moments when someone attends one of our shows and later remarks to me something such as, ‘we went to a performance last night and the show was unbelievable! I can’t believe these performers are students!’ And that’s what it’s all about for me. That’s what I enjoy the most.”
Interview by Cheryl Valyo
Photo and video by Chris Rolinson
The Point is a magazine for alumni and friends of Point Park University.