Rachel Fine

Rachel Fine

Rachel Fine (ΦΒΚ, University of California, Irvine) is the newly named executive director of Yale Schwarzman Center, Yale University’s first-ever center for student life and the arts. She joins YSC following her role as executive director and CEO of the Los Angeles-based Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts. Also a concert pianist, Rachel attended the Music Academy of the West and Eastman School of Music.


As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up? 

As a child, I wanted to be many things when I grew up. More than anything, I wanted to have a leading role in the Broadway musicals Annie and A Chorus Line, two musicals that dominated the 1970s and my childhood. I wanted to be a concert pianist. I wanted to write, direct and sell tickets to plays, which I often produced as a child with my neighborhood friends. I wanted to marry teenage heartthrob Parker Stevenson, the actor best known for playing Frank Hardy in the 1970s TV series The Hardy Boys. And I always knew I wanted to be a mother.

What was the most transformative course from your undergraduate education?

The courses I took in the music department at U.C. Irvine with Professor H. Colin Slim (1929–2019), music historian, conductor and pianist who founded the Department of Music at UC Irvine in 1965 were transformative. One course, in particular, focused on musical forms and analysis. I remember every musical phrase of every major work we studied closely and analyzed together. Dr. Slim had an infectious energy that permeated the classroom when he spoke about music. In addition, the course focused intensively on how to write well about music. That’s no easy task. Toward the end of my undergraduate career at UCI, I snuck over to the English department to take a seminar on African and African-American literature. The seminar introduced me to Their Eyes Were Watching God, the brilliant Zora Neale Hurston novel, which touched my heart and soul, and taught me a tremendous amount about living for myself. Reading this seminar’s literature, which also included Toni Morrison’s Beloved, was transformative.

You currently serve as the executive director at Yale Schwarzman Center, Yale University’s first-ever center for student life and the arts. What types of projects are you looking forward to taking on in this new position?

I started in my new position at Yale Schwarzman Center on October 24, 2022; thus, I’m very new to the position and just starting to find my way at the Center and at Yale. Also, YSC opened to the public very recently and is, in essence, a “start-up” organization. That said, I’m interested in the Center’s original intent to build and strengthen community connection through the arts, dining experiences and wellness. YSC also houses Yale’s largest dining hall (Commons), an international café, a pub, multiple gallery spaces and a grab-and-go shop, as well as The Good Life Center, the University’s official student wellness center, all of which help foster a vibrant, cohesive and healthy student life. A number of interesting opportunities attracted me to the position, including the fact that most every major space within YSC’s 123,000-square-foot expanse can hold performances and is equipped to accommodate artists and art-making of all performance genres. As a result, YSC has an unprecedented opportunity to establish new and interesting ways of presenting and producing the performing arts and to attract and build new audiences accordingly. Since I started, I’ve witnessed the artists of Bandeloop swinging from our rafters in Commons, jaw-dropping student projection art on our gallery walls, student standup comedians from all departments and disciplines on The Underground stage, and an unforgettable world premiere by composer and musician Nathalie Joachim in The Dome. I look forward to YSC paving a new path in the area of arts consumption and enjoyment, and being a pacesetter in the arena of arts audience growth, most especially during this fragile time for arts and culture organizations that are attempting to rebound from the pandemic and win back audiences.

Phi Beta Kappa’s motto is “the love of learning is the guide of life,” and we are dedicated to life-long learning. What do you want to learn next?

First and foremost, I never want to stop learning. I’m a firm believer in the Phi Beta Kappa motto! I’m hugely interested in taking advantage of everything Yale University has to offer me as a leader, an employee, and member of the broader university community. I’ve worked consistently as an arts leader since 1997, but never within the context of a major prestigious university. There are new and fascinating things to be learned at Yale every minute. In an ideal world, I will make time ultimately to pursue my love and continue my learning of foreign languages. Over the years, I’ve studied German, Spanish and Italian seriously, but a lot of time has passed since I’ve been able to devote myself to studying a foreign language day in and day out or live abroad in order to immerse myself fully in foreign language study. There are quite a few major piano works I’d like to learn before I’m too old or too rusty to play piano with ease and great facility. I’ve learned and performed Chopin’s first and third Ballades, but never the fourth, which is far and away my favorite. Very likely, I don’t have the technique these days to master Prokofiev’s third Sonata or Piano Concerto, but they are both on my wish list.

What was the best advice you were ever given and who gave it to you?

I’ve been given a lot of excellent advice over the years, so it’s difficult to identify the “best.” So much of the best advice given to me comes from my mother, who always leads by example. She’s the most optimistic, positive, and vivacious person I know. She’s also the most disciplined, hardworking, and practical person I know. And she never has time for ridiculous and childish antics like “two bald men fighting over a comb,” one of her most favorite sayings (and how the Argentinian writer Jose Luis Borges described the Falklands War).

As a side note, I’ve always followed the advice of culinary icon Alice Waters and never put my tomatoes in the refrigerator.

What book(s) are you reading right now? Are you listening to any podcasts or watching any shows? Anything you'd recommend? 

I just started the recently-released book Conscious Accountability by David C. Tate, Marianne S. Pantalon and Daryn H. David (atd Press). As I adjust to my new position and environment at Yale, I’m eager to strenghten my work and elevate my workplace relationships through the powerful framework introduced by this book. I love cookbooks. I spent the “safer at home” portion of the pandemic deeply engaged with the cookbooks of Yotam Ottolenghi. I would recommend every single one, most especially Simple for those who love cooking, but have little time to cook. I’m addicted to podcasts and have been since Serial made its debut and Presidential entered the scene. My podcast tastes vary greatly. I’ve long loved The Moth, This American Life, Story Corps, The Daily and How I Built This, but I also indulge heavily in true crime. (Truth be told, I’m a Crime Junkie.)

Photo Credit: Luke Fontana
Published on December 6, 2022