Nikolaj Koppel, 48 years old, Copenhagen. Vice President of Culture in Tivoli
My name is Nikolaj Koppel and I’m working as the VP of Culture in Tivoli. I am responsible for everything we do that is set on a stage; be it ballets, children’s theater, classical concerts or our well known Friday open air concerts.
Since age three I was playing piano and I ended up pursuing a career in classical music. After six years at The Royal Danish Academy of Music I was fortunate enough to make both studio records and tour all over the world with my music. It turned out that the life of a touring classical pianist is quite a lonely one, and at age 30 I decided it was time to pursue other things and spend more time with my wife and small children.
There’s no such thing as an average day for me. Some days are entirely reserved for creative tasks, while other are filled to the brim with more tedious stuff such as budgets and economy. Bottomline is that Tivoli contains so many different aspects of culture, meaning that no day is like the one before. At times I have to look at the grand scale of things, while other parts of my job requires extreme attention to detail.
I try my very best to lead a healthy lifestyle. I run every other day, and I have done so for the last 17 years. Running is about creating a breathing space where I’m able to exhale and empty my brain. I’m not the type of guy who functions on black coffee only. My best days start with a solid breakfast in the company of my wife. At work I often stay late, but I strive to go home for dinner. Everything is between is just a fragmented mess.
On work and play
My job doesn’t allow me to turn off my phone for three weeks and go to a tropical island. Whenever I’m off work or on vacation, I still use half an hour every morning on work related stuff. Most people are strict about separating the two, but it honestly doesn’t bother me and I’m still able to relax with work on the sideline.
I’ve come to accept and embrace that things often happen fast. Right here, right now. There’s a tendency to always look ahead on what’s on the horizon. The next vacation, a new car, nicer weather and so on. We’re always going somewhere and chasing something. It sounds a bit philosophical, but I’m happier when I remember to enjoy the small things like a good podcast or a walk in the blooming Frederiksberg Gardens.
There’s a long way from being a performing artist to what I do now. I don’t believe there’s a formula for bridging a seemingly big gap like this, and, said with the utmost humility, I believe I have a talent for both. I have great faith in my intuition and my people skills always come in handy. Of course I’ve also taken different leadership courses to be a better leader and have more tools, but I very much rely on the things that you can’t teach or learn.
On missing out
I no longer miss being a performing artist, but lately I’ve been playing my piano more and more at home. One thing I do miss is the unprecedented solitude that hides in the music. Especially classical music that also has the ability to show a glimpse of some truth you didn’t know existed. I feel obligated to keep up a certain level of playing and be able to dive into these great works of art that classical music often is.
On work tools
Like most other people in the 21st century I use my phone more than anything else. It’s an extremely capable tool for almost everything I do, but the presence of my smartphone can be a bit much at times. I try my best not to check it every time I’m stuck at a red light on my bike, but it’s my best friend during work hours.
The huge presence of smartphones has had me wondering how people got things done 30 years ago. Like today, back then Tivoli was hosting international concerts with tons of logistic and administrative road bumps that now takes 45 emails to solve and that’s it.
I often visit places like London and New York to gather fresh input. Both are constantly raising the bar for all that’s done in theater, dance music and much more, and I always feel rejuvenated with ideas when I return from there. That being said, inspiration in not always one to one. If we are doing a classical concert in Tivoli, I might as well come up with new ideas on my bike than by going to an equal concert in Hamburg og Luzern.
On the horizon
Tivoli is turning 175 years in 2018 and that is being commemorated with a monumental cultural year in the old garden. This cornerstone year serves as a reminder that I’m just a humble VP who has Tivoli on a temporary loan for a handfull of years. It has been been in the center of Copenhagen for 175 years and it’s going to be here for 175 more. I really hope that I and my co-workers are able to move Tivoli forward without fogetting the traditions and vast historical DNA of this magical place.