When Tiffanie Chan, ’02, was a student, she cut class one afternoon to work as house manager at the Modlin Center for the Arts during a master class by internationally known cellist Yo-Yo Ma.

As she watched Ma walk across campus with his cello slung across his back, she was struck by the musician’s humility, and by his willingness to spend time working with students before that evening’s sold-out performance.

Today, as Modlin’s marketing director, Chan is still as inspired by the artists who perform on campus as she was that afternoon. She is gearing up to promote Modlin’s 15th season, which includes performances by bluegrass band Cherryholmes, the Merce Cunningham Dance Company, The King’s Singers, Kodo Drummers of Japan, humorist David Sedaris, and pianist Yefim Bronfman.

This season will also see the arrival of a new Modlin executive director, Deborah S. Sommers, who previously worked as director of programming at Fairfield University’s Quick Center for the Arts since 1992.

For Richmond students, the Modlin Center not only provides world-class, on-campus entertainment, but serves an important educational function through its master classes — many of which are open only to Richmond students — and through programming that relates to the curriculum.

Last year, when actor and director Tim Robbins visited with The Actors’ Gang theater company, for which he serves as artistic director, he led multiple master classes for Richmond theater students.

“The proximity with which you are able to interact with these outstanding artists is what makes a difference for students,” Chan says. “To listen to Tim Robbins talk about the craft of acting and how he formed his theater company — that is an experience that is really one-of-a-kind.”

Over the past 15 years Modlin has also made a name for itself as the premiere local promoter of classical music and dance. The University’s resident ensemble, Grammy Award-winning eighth blackbird, always presents a provocative program during the Modlin series. The Shanghai Quartet, which was formerly in residence at Richmond for many years, continues to draw a loyal following.

In a season with diverse dance offerings, a two-night engagement by the Merce Cunningham Dance Company is a real coup, Chan says. Cunningham, who died in 2009, laid out a legacy plan that incorporated a final, two-year international tour of his company. “This is a chance to see history,” Chan says.

Richmond-area arts patrons enthusiastically support the Modlin Center, which is an important link between the University and the wider Richmond community. Though Modlin never brings back a performer for consecutive years, it has introduced Richmond to many performers who have become local favorites. In addition to the Kodo drummers, Cirque Éloize, the Reduced Shakespeare Company, MOMIX, and Sedaris all return to Richmond this year after previous successful performances.

For students in Richmond’s arts management program, The Modlin Center for the Arts serves as a hands-on laboratory. A wealth of student job opportunities — from artist coordinator and merchandise associate to stagehand and box office associate — provide invaluable work experience for students interested in careers in arts administration.

While she was a student, Chan worked at Modlin as a house manager, a box office associate and in the administrative offices. Though she was an English and journalism double major, she says, “I think about Modlin as my actual major. I learned about the business through experience.”

Modlin also provides Richmond’s department of theatre and dance with a state-of-the-art venue in which to showcase student productions. This year’s season will feature four main-stage theater productions — “Julius Ceaser,” “Rent,” “Things Fall Apart” and a production to be chosen by students — and the University Dancers’ annual spring concert.

Student tickets for Modlin Center events never cost more than $8, and for select, grant-funded events, are sometimes free. “You really want students to get into the habit of coming out when it’s cheap or free,” Chan says. “It costs less than a movie.”