Musical Background Led Dr. Marrero to Administrative Success, Presidency

How Georgia Southern’s President made the most out of a career change.


Students who have not had a chance to familiarize themselves with Georgia Southern University President Kyle Marrero’s background may be surprised to learn that he’s had a long and accomplished career as a musician that predates his career as an educator.
In a Sept. 1 interview conducted by the George-Anne Inkwell and Statesboro’s George-Anne, Dr. Marrero opened up about his artistic background and how it has directly influenced and benefited his educational career.
“When I was 18 I had a choice of either being a musician, which was my entire background, or to be an engineer; I’d gotten a nomination to West Point and the Air Force Academy. I ended up making the choice to go into music.”
A large part of Dr. Marrero’s life, including his entire 20s and much of his 30s, was spent pursuing a career as an artist, achieving more than a moderate amount of international success.
“I was a professional opera singer, I was fortunate to tour the world as an artistic ambassador for United States embassies, 14 different countries, and did a national tour with San Francisco Opera… I have been really, really fortunate to understand and see cultures and people, but I’ve always wanted to teach.”
Dr. Marrero cited the academic environment and the opportunity to help students grow as major incentives for his career adjustment. He said that he felt a “calling” to teach.
“So I went back, finished my doctorate at University of Michigan, went on and got my first teaching job at LSU,” he explained.
After beginning to teach, Dr. Marrero’s first administration experience was directly involved in his artistic background. He cut his teeth by running opera companies and other arts organizations.
“I was always able to raise money, market, sell tickets, produce and all other logistical sides of operation. And so I became a department chair and then a director of a school of music.”
As he continued to prove his capabilities as an administrator, he took on more and more responsibilities and moved up the administrative ranks until eventually serving as president of the University of West Georgia. In 2019 he transitioned to Georgia Southern.
Dr. Marrero cites the collaborative process of the arts world as something that has benefitted him in university administration.
There are several aspects of Dr. Marrero’s experience in the arts world that have aided his perspective as a university president. His experience as a stage director benefits his relationship with his faculty and staff.
“Just like those performers, they’re the ones who had to get up on the stage. I could just stand back and be nervous and watch the production and hope it went well. Same way with a university… It’s still the faculty that have to go in the classroom and teach. It’s still the staff that every day have to make this campus beautiful.”
This dynamic keeps Dr. Marrero focused on the collaborative aspects of running a university, and keeps him reminded that he can’t, and shouldn’t, do everything himself.
“How do you collaborate, and then be secure enough to say ‘It’s okay if it’s not your idea, Kyle.’? In fact, it’s better if you collaborate and they come up with something even better.”
While his may not be as straightforward a path that many university leaders take, Dr. Marrero’s extensive experience as an artist has clearly paved the way for a successful career in education and university administration.
“Those same skills that I hope made me a successful producer and artistic director of arts organizations really began to apply into higher education. So here I am, ninth year as a university president.”