8 min

“I have a partner in my work, as well as a son. We’ve got a good thing.”

Evan and Sharon smile at the camera, his arm around her shoulder.

Evan Carr and Sharon Gardner Carr

Evan Carr was only 6 years old when he first accompanied his mother Sharon Gardner Carr to the Detroit Symphony Orchestra box office where she worked. More than 26 years later, he is System Administrator at Detroit Opera and collaborates closely with Sharon, who is now Tessitura Event Operations Manager on the orchestra’s marketing and audience development team. 

We asked Sharon and Evan to tell us more about their unique working relationship, which provides great benefit to members of our Tessitura community in Detroit.

Can you tell us about your roles?

Sharon: I’m responsible for everything that goes into Tessitura related to events at the Max M. & Marjorie S. Fisher Music Center, a performing arts center operated by the Detroit Symphony Orchestra. That includes performances, packages, offers and promotions. This year, between performances and parking, I’ve built 328 different events. I work closely with all departments. For example, I prepare the system for the IT team to do a data export or audit pricing information for our finance team. I’ve just gotten almost everything ready for our 2024-25 season, and I’m preparing for our single ticket launch in August. Every day is different depending on what’s going on. It could be a last-minute special event, or our summertime shows in June outside in the Sosnick courtyard. I’m always looking for more efficient ways to build our events and track our audience data.

Evan: I do all ticketing and marketing setup in Tessitura for Detroit Opera. I build performances, packages and season rollovers. I administer our Tessitura e-commerce website, and I’m responsible for a good chunk of our reporting. I oversee all our various users and user groups, and most recently I have been tasked with managing the upgrade to Tessitura version 16. My days vary, depending on what is needed. I’ve just built 60 events for the upcoming season, including paid performances, free events and parking. Not quite as many as my mom, but plenty enough!

What do you love most about your jobs?

Sharon: I’ve been working with Tessitura since Detroit Symphony Orchestra acquired it in 2012, and I love it. In my life outside work, I enjoy creative pursuits. I find building shows suits this side of me. It’s my way of making something that helps the orchestra bring in revenue. I feel that I’m playing a part in helping DSO survive and grow. Here at work, my nickname is “The Fixer.” Unexpected things can happen, and I’m the one who searches for a solution. I love helping people.

Evan: I like problem-solving. If I come across something new, I like the challenge of figuring it out. I take real pleasure in using Tessitura’s many features to beautify things we do and make everyone’s job easier. I previously worked in our box office, and I enjoy implementing things that make life more streamlined for my colleagues there. I’m the person who likes to say, “Let me see what I can find that will make that simpler for you.”

“I take real pleasure in using Tessitura’s many features to beautify things we do and make everyone’s job easier.”

You've been described as Detroit's Tessitura brain trust, with both organizations benefiting from your unique collaboration. How does this work in practice?

Evan: It’s not a formal, organized collaboration. It’s more like a casual, ongoing conversation. I’m round at her house two or three times per week with my daughter, and I’ll ask her, “What do you think about this?” It’s seamless. It’s cool that I can teach her stuff.

Sharon: Yes, he’s the type of person who will take the time to click on something to see what it does. He’ll say, “I’ve just been looking at this button, and I think there is a way for you to do this thing better, more efficiently.” He is a wonderful support system.

Evan and Sharon behind desktop computers working together.

Evan and Sharon collaborate on uses of Tessitura.

Evan, when did you first start working with your mom?

When I was 6! Dad was a firefighter who worked nights. Mom would collect my brother and me, and we would hang out with her while she was working. I grew up at the Detroit Symphony Orchestra. But I started working with her in an official capacity in 2011, when I was one year out of high school. They needed some extra help in the box office. I started working as a ticketing specialist and was there on and off until 2016. After some time working at Chrysler, I was contacted by the marketing director at Detroit Opera, who had previously worked with my mom at DSO. I became a part-time box office associate at the opera company, and in 2018 a full-time opportunity came up. I worked through the pandemic and eventually was promoted to box office lead. My mom trained me in Tessitura. Now here I am, a little over a year into my role as System Administrator.

What was it like to work so closely as mother and son at DSO?

Evan: We worked together laterally. She was never my boss. It’s been cool. Customers liked her. They would recognize the surname and say things like, “Your mom always took care of me.” I got a few perks, like extra food! She would bring me meals. She “mommied” me at the job for sure, but there was no extra pressure.

Sharon: We laugh together. And we just give each other a look that we both understand. I love him.

Evan: I love her too.

Sharon: He’s not only a son. He’s a good friend. I remember a very stressful day. He was in the box office. He came to me out on the balcony. I was so overwhelmed. He let me hug him and cry. He didn’t rush me. He waited until I got through it. You can’t do that with everyone.

Evan: I remember that. I thought somebody must have died. I thought, “Who is making my mom cry?”

Evan stands outside building with Detroit Opera sign, looking to his left.

Evan Carr outside Detroit Opera offices

Sharon, how did you first get into this line of work?

I started in this line of work back in 1989. Before that, I was a test driver for General Motors, and I had been laid off. My younger sister worked at Detroit Symphony and invited me to help with a marketing mailing. I went on to work for an art company doing framing, but I persistently called the DSO box office manager twice a week until he gave me a job! I started here in December 1989. It was a few days after my birthday, so it was the best gift for me at that time.

How does Tessitura support the work that you do?

Evan: Tessitura enables me to streamline processes and make things easier for everyone in the company. I like to discover new ways to do things, so I love the community forums. It’s a great asset to me because I can find out what people did in other organizations and try it here. It’s super fun.

Sharon: Forums are my go-to if I have a puzzle. I can search or ask questions. As well as asking Evan!

Evan: I’ve just completed the fall session of Tessitura’s Career Accelerator program. It’s given me a more universal sense of what Tessitura can do, beyond ticketing. It’s been valuable to meet and hear from people at different organizations. We have all experienced being minorities in our workplaces. It was reaffirming to hear about others having similar experiences and share ideas on how to navigate them. I would recommend this program for anyone in a similar situation. I’m looking forward to attending TLCC Washington, D.C., with the alumni group.  

“I’ve just completed the fall session of Tessitura’s Career Accelerator program. It’s been valuable to meet and hear from people at different organizations. We have all experienced being minorities in our workplaces.”

What advice would you give others starting out in this line of work?

Sharon: Bring your patience and your consideration. We are not just working with the public but working with colleagues. It’s still customer service when you are providing service to co-workers. They may not know how to ask what they want. So, your job is to decipher what their need is. And be open to change. Be willing to hear another person’s way of doing things. Even if you don’t understand why, try it. That’s the only way you’ll find out. 

Sharon sits in the middle of a theater auditorium of red seats, smiling at the camera with chin resting on hand.

Sharon Gardner Carr in the auditorium of the Max M. & Marjorie S. Fisher Music Center

Evan: I echo Mom’s sentiment. Also, try not to take things personally. I like to make work fun. It’s good to laugh a lot. Try to make it enjoyable when you can. Ask questions. Ask why. What is the outcome expected to be? I’m a fuller-picture kind of person. Don’t be so hard on yourself.

Sharon: I’m sorry I wasn’t a doctor or lawyer. You followed in my footsteps, but I am thankful that you did, because it’s been beneficial for both of us. We have good jobs. I have a partner in my work, as well as a son. I can be vulnerable, and you understand. We’ve got a good thing.

Evan: We have a long-established comfort with each other. I wouldn’t have picked any other person to teach me Tessitura. I am looking forward to continuing to work together.

Sharon: He’s a good teacher too.


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