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Concert Arranger Stages Art that Rocks at the MFA

By Cindy Atoji Keene

The hip bands on Jasmine Hagans’ wish list include pop-blues players Viva Viva, grunge rockers Drug Rug, and one-man ensemble Animal Hospital. This isn’t a parade of indie artists bound for a late-night appearance in an Allston bar, but programming notes for possible future concerts at the Museum of Fine Arts. Hagans, 25, is the Gen Y mastermind behind the museum’s concert series, which aims to create a lively blend of different flavors of arts in a unique venue. “From world to classical music, the museum is a living space to showcase a diverse and eclectic series, as reflected in the encyclopedic museum that we are,” said Hagans.

Hagans, an accomplished drummer and graduate of Northeastern’s music industry program, worked her way up from MFA intern to lead concert manager. Since she began her current role almost two years ago, she has reinstituted year-round concerts at the museum and conceptualized and launched the “Sound Bites” program, which brings free live music into the galleries once a month. “I can’t imagine working in any field other than live music,” said Hagans, whose desk at the MFA is surrounded by concert posters and piled high with new CDs as she constantly listens to new songs and bands in preparation for upcoming series. “I have a special love for Boston and aim to feature local talent as often as possible,” said Hagans, who booked locals David Wax Museum, Debo Band, and Kristin Hersh to play at the Museum. She also plans on featuring local student films before upcoming concerts, spotlighting up-and-coming filmmakers along with musicians.

Q: You are the daughter of a three-time Grammy nominated jazz trumpet player Tim Hagans, who is also an arranger and composer. What influence did that have on you?
A: Some people have rose-colored glasses; I have musical glasses that affect the way I view and interact with the world. I grew up going to a lot of concerts and had a firsthand view of what it’s like to be a professional musician. Instead of going the ups and downs of the performance route, I knew I wanted the stability of a full-time job, which is why I chose the business side of music.

Q: Why did you decide to join the MFA? Do you have an interest in art?
A: After I graduated, I went abroad and taught English for a year in South Korea. For the first time, instead of spending a lot of time around the live music, I was exposed to a lot of visual art, which really resonated with me. Suddenly I saw a whole new arena of visual art to explore. There is so much to learn, and it’s fun to approach it as someone who is completely new to the field.

Q: What was one of your favorite performers that you’ve brought to the museum?
A: Last summer we had Debo Band, an Ethiopian funk band, play outside in the courtyard under the summer stars. It was a really cool summer dance party.

Q: How do you go about deciding on bands that you want to feature?
A: I work hard to develop relationships with agents who represent bands about to break into the national scene; the other half is from research or hearing about a band. I also get ideas from going to a lot of shows at the Middle East or T.T. the Bears or from hearing opening bands at larger venues like House of Blues or Berklee Performance Center.

Q: Did your father ever play at the MFA?
A: I was going through old press releases from the concert series, and found one from 1986, the year I was born. My dad played in the courtyard in our summer series that year. Since I work here now, it almost feels like coming full circle.

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