Creative at Columbia
The Columbia community is bursting with hidden talents. Learn more about some of the other employees around campus whose artistic abilities shine—either during or after working hours.

Most experienced musicians will tell you that mastering the business of marketing is just as important to a successful career as mastering one's instrument. But few can claim to have balanced the two disciplines as well as Allison Scola.

Before assuming the role of associate director of communications at Columbia's School of General Studies in 2005, Scola was an account executive at the Madison Avenue advertising firm Ogilvy & Mather and worked in the advertising department at Sheraton Hotels, among other jobs. Scola is also an accomplished singer, songwriter and musician who has toured nationally and internationally, and is now preparing to release an album of original songs. "I've been living a double life for many years," she says.

Scola grew up singing and playing both piano and clarinet. After earning a degree in music and theater from the University of Rochester and studying at the Eastman School of Music, she considered her career options. "I was living with my parents and trying to figure out how to get to New York to perform, and I knew I didn't want to do the waitressing thing," she recalls.

Allison Scola singing at a pre-game show for the Mets at Shea Stadium.
Allison Scola singing at a pre-game show for the Mets at Shea Stadium

An interest in international marketing ultimately led to the position at Ogilvy. But juggling the demands of a job in advertising with her creative life—she was studying piano and writing songs at the same time—proved especially difficult.

After moving to Mannes College of Music as director of admissions, where her fellow administrators were also musicians, Scola picked up the clarinet again, toured the Philippines playing chamber music (she used all her vacation time to do so) and rededicated herself to music. Yet she missed working in marketing, and balancing her performance career with the demands of recruiting was no cakewalk. "If I was going to Colorado, I would book a gig and bring my keyboard on the plane," she says. "It was insanity."

It wasn't until she arrived at Columbia that Scola was finally able to strike a satisfying balance, devoting the right amount of effort to both the marketing and music parts of her life. Over the past couple of years, she's won the first round of a "Battle of the Bands" contest on CBS News' Early Show; helped found On Stage Italian American Artists, a group that promotes a positive image of Italian-Americans through performance; and completed her first album, A Braver Kind.

"I've wanted to be a songwriter since I was six years old, and I've always wanted to be on the radio—that was my dream as a little girl," she says.

With any luck, it's about to come true.

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