An EMBA success story from the Dubai Opera to Coldplay

SDA Bocconi Alumnus Paolo Petrocelli was recently named Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum.


A career dedicated to culture, art and music. SDA Bocconi Alumnus Paolo Petrocelli started out as a violinist and expert in musicology, but soon his career broadened to include management, innovation and leadership. This fundamental addition lead him to become one of the most successful young cultural managers and not just in Italy. Today, he is Head of the Dubai Opera in the United Arab Emirates, and he has held several prestigious roles in the industry, including Cultural Advisor for the band Coldplay.


SDA Bocconi had the chance to interview him and gather some insights into the arts and culture sector.



From a professional point of view, the cultural manager is a complex and multifaceted figure who can combine two distinct but complementary aspects: intellectual, mainly related to research and creativity, and managerial-organizational, more strictly based on planning skills and leadership.



Italy possesses an extraordinary cultural and artistic heritage. The challenge we face today is to figure out how to boldly propel our cultural heritage system into the future. For too long, Italy has lacked a serious, broadened and intergenerational debate on culture. We should talk more about competence and merit, ideas, visions and strategies for development and growth, not just preservation and enhancement. It is essential to make our cultural institutions more international, more open to the world, connected to society and future-oriented. We are not looking to the future, and we are not concerned with complementing the current leadership of cultural institutions with a group of young managers, who over time will be able to develop the right skills to face the challenges of tomorrow. Art, music and theater are not only entertainment opportunities but real strategic assets to create new value and generate well-being and value for the whole community.



In this sense, high-profile schools such as SDA Bocconi are able to provide new generations of professionals with advanced tools to imagine and build a new vision of the future for all strategic sectors of our society, including arts and culture. An example of this is the Executive Master in Business Administration (EMBA), a training course that can also prepare cultural managers to best meet the challenges of the present and anticipate those of the future with awareness and competence. Personally, having participated in the EMBA has allowed me to engage with professionals from experiences that are very distant from my own, allowing me to enrich and strengthen the way I approach the profession and operate in my field. It was a valuable opportunity to work on ideas, in a dynamic and highly stimulating environment. It was during the EMBA years that my collaboration with Coldplay also began, an equally extraordinary opportunity, which allowed me to test myself on the level of creativity and innovation with one of the most celebrated bands in the world.



For me, the volunteer association system is an extraordinary opportunity for growth. There are so many organizations that carry out a just, authentic, and valuable mission with great competence and ability. I personally have contributed to the birth and development of several associations, including the Italian Youth Association for UNESCO (now the largest association within the UNESCO system in the world), which I co-founded and led as president for five years. Associations and activism not only offer great opportunities to develop one's skills and personality, but above all allow us to express ourselves as citizens, thus giving us the chance to make ourselves available to the community to try to improve it through our own ideas, determination, and desire to build a better future for all.


If you are interested in the field of arts and culture management and wish to develop a career in this area, we recommend that you visit our Master in Arts Management and Administration (MAMA) at SDA Bocconi School of Management.

On the other hand, if you have already started a career in this field or related areas and are looking for further opportunities for professional growth and development, we invite you to explore our Executive MBA (EMBA).


SDA Bocconi School of Management

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