Dylan LaddDylan Ladd is a school leader, music educator and the Co-founder and Executive Director of the Illinois Conservatory for the Arts. With experience in teaching grades 6-12 and leading an arts magnet program in an urban school district, he has developed skills in educational leadership and arts curriculum and instruction.

Dylan is currently pioneering a new independent arts school for grades 6-12 in the Western Suburbs of Chicago, leading an incredible team of visionary educators and artists to create innovative arts education that brings the arts and academics to the same level of rigor.


Here’s a glimpse of what you’ll learn:

  • [0:41] How Dylan Ladd creates positive change through art education 
  • [2:20] The value of merging business with creative passion
  • [2:41] How is  Dylan’s dream of an innovative arts education taking shape? 
  • [7:51] An intensive program that connects students with Broadway professionals 
  • [11:55] The evolving roadmap to a full-time independent art school 
  • [19:08] Understanding the fundraising and networking challenges of a startup nonprofit

In this episode…

Have you ever imagined a world where the arts and academia coexist and thrive together? In Chicago’s western suburbs, a new independent art school for grades six through twelve is being established, aiming to elevate arts and academics to the same level of rigor. Leading this transformative venture is a visionary team of educators, leaders, and artists dedicated to redefining arts education and creating a nurturing environment for young artists.

Dylan Ladd, the Co-founder of the Illinois Conservatory for the Arts, envisioned a mission to intertwine academics and the arts, providing students with a holistic education that values both equally. This innovative approach is designed to resonate with students who are passionate about the arts but uncertain about how to pursue their interests. Recognizing this gap, the school aims to provide robust guidance and skill development for students, whether they aspire to become artists or simply want to support the arts in some capacity. The belief is that while society values the arts, there is a lack of understanding about cultivating and supporting young talent effectively.

In this episode of the Mission Matters Podcast, Paul Feith welcomes Dylan Ladd, the Co-founder and Executive Director of the Illinois Conservatory for the Arts, to discuss his journey as an educator and leader in the arts community. Dylan shares his experiences as a mission-driven leader, the roadblocks faced by a new nonprofit in fundraising, and insights into his creative process for maintaining effective operations despite the challenges of leading a startup.

Resources Mentioned in this episode

Quotable Moments:

  • “I always wanted to become a music teacher. But beyond that, I always had this entrepreneurship side of my life.”
  • “The biggest thing I wanted to do was create a place for kids that loved music, just like I did, or loved any form of the arts to really thrive.”
  • “When we were all sitting at home, kind of figuring out what we’re doing with life… we just started writing things down and said, Let’s see what this could look like if we stopped talking about it and tried to actually do it.”
  • “The people in that theater community are the most giving and kind people in the world.”
  • “None of us are experts at any of this. But we all have experts who have pieces of it.”

Action Steps:

  1. Network within Your Community: Dylan highlights the importance of joining local organizations like the Chamber of Commerce and Rotary Club to build connections and support.
  2. Partner with Experts: Dylan’s strategy involves leveraging board members’ curriculum development and fundraising skills, revealing the importance of skills-based recruitment.
  3. Engage in Continual Learning: The iterative process that Dylan and his team are on underscores the need to always be learning, adapting, and growing as a nonprofit leader.
  4. Balance Passion with Practicality: Dylan’s dual focus on arts and business highlights the effectiveness of blending one’s passion with practical skills for better organization management.
  5. Seek Creative Solutions to Space and Funding: Dylan’s approach to finding a physical location for the Illinois Conservatory of the Arts suggests looking for innovative ways to overcome traditional hurdles in starting a nonprofit.

Sponsor for this episode…

Today’s episode is sponsored by Paul Gregory Media, an 18-year-old digital marketing agency in downtown Naperville, Illinois.

They are one of the few thousand Certified B Corporations worldwide, demonstrating PGM as a leader of a global movement to use business as a force for good, meeting high standards of accountability, transparency, and community involvement. They have been trusted by hundreds of organizations since 2006.

PGM is recognized as one of the top marketing agencies in the region, earning more awards than many of its competitors combined. They have the passion, commitment, and expertise to get it done.

To learn more about the services PGM offers or how they can support you with your marketing needs, visit www.paulgregorymedia.com or email them at [email protected].