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March 17, 2017

Meet Jonathan Kitt

As a Senior Development Associate in the Development Department, Jonathan Kitt supports the Vice President of Development and Communications, the Executive Director of Development, and the various departments they manage. “Essentially, I take care of administrative tasks, which include coordinating external meetings with current and prospective donors and Trustees, and internal meetings with Senior Managers and other stakeholders. I also manage the THIRTEEN and newly launched NJTV Corporate Membership programs, which provide unrestricted private-sector support for our stations, and I help produce events for the Development Department,” Jonathan says.

Read on to learn about the path that led Jonathan to WNET, the public media program that “rocked his world” as a child, and more.

Jonathan Kitt

Jonathan Kitt

What is your background, and how did you land at WNET?

I originally came to New York as a musical theatre performer after graduating from Penn State. I’d just finished a production of Rent when I accepted a temp job at an agency called The Road Company that books national and international tours of Broadway musicals. It was my first real introduction to the world beyond the stage and the creativity that goes into producing and promoting live events. I fell in love with the business and decided to move to Philadelphia, where I received a Master’s degree in Arts Administration from Drexel. While in school, I accepted an internship at the Public Theater, where I worked in their Development Department and helped coordinate donor tickets at The Public, Joe’s Pub, and Shakespeare in the Park.

After graduation, I moved to the city and accepted a position in the Development Department at MAPP International Productions, which produces international tours and humanities events for contemporary performing artists. From there, I moved to Creative Capital – a foundation that supports the projects of artists in the performing arts, visual arts, literature, moving image, and emerging fields. I worked with their Individual Giving Department and also produced the pilot of Creative Conversations – a live-streamed discussion series that highlights artists addressing social issues through their work.

I came to WNET directly from Creative Capital. I’ve been here since Spring 2016 and can’t believe it’s almost been a year. Time flies!

The Development Department hosts many events throughout the year. Are there any events you have worked on that were especially memorable, and is there an upcoming event you’re particularly excited about?

I was honored to be part of Great Performances’ Hamilton’s America screening at the United Palace Theatre last October. It was such a massive event and was attended by people from all walks of life. I was responsible for inviting and coordinating the school and community groups that attended, and coordinating our staff volunteers. As you probably know, it’s pretty hard to score a ticket for the show, and the documentary was the closest many people will ever get to the original Broadway cast. It was a humbling experience to receive thank you letters and emails from such a diverse group of students, teachers, and community group leaders after the event.

I was also very proud to work on the recent screening of The Talk – Race in America that was held at Tumblr headquarters. The attendees were younger and more diverse than our usual audience, and we were able to have a very candid conversation about race and police brutality.

For our Media with Impact campaign, we’ve been asking viewers to share stories describing how THIRTEEN has influenced their life. How has THIRTEEN (or the PBS station of your childhood) inspired you?

Like many WNET employees, I grew up watching Sesame Street, Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, The Magic School Bus, Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?, Shining Time Station, and other kids programs on my local PBS station (CPTV).

More to your point, I think public television helped me find my “tribe” of artists and creators. As a child, I was drawn to musical performance. My uncle is a professional pianist/organist and music teacher, but my parents, while supportive, are not particularly inclined toward the arts. I vividly remember the Sunday afternoon I forced my entire family to endure Tribute: Live from the Forbidden City and the Taj Mahal, a Yanni concert that featured Karen Briggs, an amazing African-American violinist. Afterwards, I begged my parents to let me take violin lessons. It was the first time I’d ever seen a person who looked like me play classical violin – and it rocked my world. Those violin lessons were the basis of my formal musical training. I’ve tried to use the skills and the discipline developed in those lessons in many other contexts over the years – from competitive athletics, to professional performance, to academic research.

Which three shows airing on our stations this month are you most likely to watch, stream, or record?

In no particular order, I’m looking forward to watching Against All Odds: The Fight for a Black Middle Class; American Masters: Maya Angelou: And Still I Rise; and my daily dose of PBS NewsHour.

Where do you live, and what are some of your favorite places in your neighborhood?

I live in Harlem (uptown, baby!). Some of my favorite local haunts include Barawine (they have a killer shrimp risotto with seasonal veggies), and Safari (Somali and East African cuisine). I was also a big fan of the The Cecil, which closed at the end of 2016. Beyond eateries, I love being outside, so I’m often in Central or Riverbank Park, or just aimlessly wandering around the isle of Manhattan.

What book are you currently reading?

I’m currently reading Parable of the Talents by Octavia E. Butler. It’s a post-apocalyptic piece that’s technically classified as “sci-fi,” but it’s remarkably realistic – and creepy considering the fact it was written in 1999, yet bears striking similarity to our current socio-political climate.


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