Meet your neighbor...Andrew Wilk, executive producer of “Live from Lincoln Center”
WESTPORT — You know the PBS television show that brings some of the best performances from New York’s Lincoln Center into your living room? Andrew Wilk, a Westport resident, makes it all happen as executive producer of “Live from Lincoln Center.”
As a boy growing up in Summit, New Jersey, Wilk loved music and became a conductor at a young age and upon entering college, enrolled in New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, where he earned a degree in film and television with a concentration in music.
“I brought this intense interest and knowledge in music with me into college at NYU and perfected it there,” Wilk said. Wilk says his career jump-started his sophomore year when a professor, who was also the co-creator of the New York Philharmonic Young People’s Concerts show on CBS, asked Wilk to help tape the show.
One day, the show’s music coordinator was sick and didn’t show up. “Because I could read a full score and the guy didn’t show up, Roger Englander (Wilk’s professor and concert director) turns around to one of the producers and says, ‘Find Andrew Wilk, he’s the geeky blonde kid with glasses and he’s got all the scores under his arm,” Wilk recounted.
Afterward, the director fired the other guy and made Wilk the show’s music coordinator and later Wilk moved to the top spot as show’s director. At 27, Wilk won his first Emmy for the series, but soon after the show was canceled.
“Like all good stories, it has an ending,” Wilk said.
Wilk was not short for work, however. “It was my musical skill combined with my television skill that kept me employed. I never stopped working,” Wilk said. He worked on a children’s science and technology show, harnessing his lifelong love of science, and for networks such as HBO and Disney, living both in New York City and Los Angeles.
But when an offer to conduct a performance of “Jesus Christ Superstar” at the Paper Mill Playhouse in New Jersey came before Wilk, he took it because he missed conducting. Fortuitously, Wilk also met his wife at the Playhouse.
“She was an usher at the Paper Mill Playhouse and I was the conductor that flew in from LA. We fell in love and got married and then low and behold, another left turn comes along, the phone rings and it’s National Geographic,” Wilk said.
Wilk started as a consultant for National Geographic but soon moved up to start a children’s television series for the company on CBS. In 2001 he helped launch the National Geographic channel, where he ran all programming.
At the time, Wilk lived in Washington D.C. with his wife and two young sons but missed the New York area. When he got an offer in 2006 from Sony Music to become the company’s Chief Creative Officer, he took the position and moved with his family to Westport.
“We loved everything about the community. We still do,” Wilk said of Westport. Wilk stayed at Sony for a short time before he was asked to take over as Executive Producer of “Live from Lincoln Center,” he said, noting in the interim between the two positions he wrote an off-Broadway play.
“It’s the world’s greatest gig. In a way, I’ve come full-circle. I started on the Young People’s Concerts, and now I’m back at Lincoln Center doing Live from Lincoln Center,” Wilk said. Only the second Executive Producer to take over Live from Lincoln Center in its 43 year history, Wilk produces filmed performances for the show’s 12 million annual viewers from the campus of Lincoln Center — “the largest artistic center of excellence in the world,” as Wilk called it, which includes 11constituent organizations, such as the New York Philharmonic, Lincoln Center Theatre, the New York City Ballet, and the Juilliard School.
“For me, this is the ultimate artistic sandbox and I have the right and title to shoot anything on the campus or related to the campus,” Wilk said. In the age of streaming, Wilk said people watch what they want to watch when they want to watch it and don’t care as much about watching programming live. To adapt, Wilk has essentially done away with the show’s previous model of only showing performances live and instead, film’s show’s multiple times to get the best shots and incorporates documentary clips about the artists into the shows.
“I’m really putting you in the midst. Even if you’re a ticket buyer, you’ll never have all the points of view I can provide viewers,” Wilk said.
Despite his busy schedule, Wilk, 66, finds time to participate in the Westport community as a board member of the Westport Library and consultant and guest conductor for Staples High School’s Symphony and theater club.
One of Wilk’s son is 17 and a junior at Staples and the other is 22-years-old and just graduated college.
“I’m a big believer in trying to give back and trying to support the community, especially in my area of interest, the arts,” Wilk said.
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