16: Creativity, Social Responsibility, and Artistic Entrepreneurship with Jennifer Kane

Show Notes:

๐—ช๐—ต๐—ฎ๐˜ ๐˜„๐—ฎ๐˜€ ๐˜†๐—ผ๐˜‚๐—ฟ ๐—–๐—ข๐—ฉ๐—œ๐—— ๐—ฝ๐—ฟ๐—ผ๐—ท๐—ฒ๐—ฐ๐˜ ๐—ฎ๐—ป๐—ฑ ๐—ต๐—ผ๐˜„ ๐—ฑ๐—ถ๐—ฑ ๐—ถ๐˜ ๐˜๐˜‚๐—ฟ๐—ป ๐—ผ๐˜‚๐˜?

ย 

After almost 2 years, the pandemic is not yet completely behind us. It has impacted musicians in different fields differently, as many string players and percussionists are still able to perform with their masks on, while many wind players and vocalists are still battling various regulations in different states and countries how they can return to the new normality. And this is why I am really excited to welcome you to todayโ€™s episode, as my friend Jennifer Kane was able to navigate this new reality and formed a new choral ensemble in Boston, the NOVA Women’s Choral Project.ย 

I first met Jennifer through a mastermind group that my conductor friend, Tiffany Chang organizes. Tiffany has also been on our show, and her episode is still one of the most popular ones โ€“ From Fear to Courage. If you missed it, you might want to go back and check out episode number 4, or visit chaowenting.com/4.ย 

Coming back to todayโ€™s episode, I am particularly eager to have Jennifer speak with all of you, my friends, on how she found her โ€œnicheโ€ in a very competitive choral environment in the greater Boston area, and how she planned the entire project and found the right people on board to make the experience valuable and worthy.ย 

Jennifer Kane is an active conductor of ensembles that specialize in treble repertoire. Her recent engagements include serving as Music Director of Cantilena Womenโ€™s Chorale in Arlington, MA, and Guest Conductor of the Concord Womenโ€™s Chorus. Jennifer is also a conductor with the Handel and Haydn Society Youth Choruses, where she directs children ranging in age from 8 -15.

For all show notes and transcripts, check out my website: theconductorspodcast.com, and please leave a review and subscribe if you are loving the show!

Links Mentioned in Today's Episode

NOVA:

Website: novawcp.org

Email: novawcp@gmail.com

ย 

Instagram:ย @theconductorspodcastย /ย @tingchaowen

Website:ย www.chaowenting.com

Facebook:ย Chaowen Ting

Jennifer: 0:00
So I had to answer some questions about, you know, what was our goal? Who were we going to be speaking to as singers? And who were we going to be speaking to as an audience? And I didn’t feel like I could move forward with building the organization until I had answered those three questions.

Chaowen: 0:22
Hey there, welcome to The Conductor’s Podcast. I’m your host, Chaowen Ting, a conductor with over 20 years of experience working with professional symphony orchestras, opera houses, new music groups, and vocalists. I’m also founder of Girls Who Conduct and have mentored hundreds of conductors from across the globe. I created The Conductor’s Podcast to share all the behind-the-scenes secrets with you while I interview conductors, musicians, and business gurus from around the world. This is a space created for conductors, conducting students, musicians, and non-musicians who are curious and interested in learning more about the profession, craft, industry, and business.

Chaowen: 1:09
Shy away from the real talk? No way. Money, hardship, growth, and the rollercoaster of a conducting career are all topics we discuss here. I will give you simple, actionable, step-by-step strategies to help you take action on your big dream, move through the fear that’s holding you back, and have a real impact. Now, pull up a seat, make sure you’re cozy, and get ready to be challenged and encouraged while you learn.

Chaowen: 1:43
Hi there and welcome to Episode No. 16 of The Conductor’s Podcast. I’m your host, Chaowen Ting, and I’m thrilled that you’re tuning in with me today. How were your first few weeks of 2022? I hope you had a great start [to] the new year and still feel fresh and energized for any challenges that are waiting for us. After almost two years, the pandemic is still not yet completely behind us. It has impacted musicians in different fields differently, as many string players and percussionist are still able to perform with their masks on, while many wind players and vocalists are just battling various regulations in different states and countries [and] how they can return to the new normality.

Chaowen: 2:35
And this is why I’m really excited to welcome you to today’s episode, as my friend, Jennifer Kane, was able to navigate this new reality and formed a new choral ensemble in Boston, the NOVA Women’s Choral Project. I first met Jennifer through a mastermind group that my conductor friend, Tiffany Chang, organizes. Tiffany has also been on our show, and her episode, which was Episode No. 4, is still one of the most popular ones. It was [titled] “From Fear to Courage”. If you missed it, you might want to go back and check it out.

Chaowen: 3:14
Now coming back to today’s episode: I’m particularly eager to have Jennifer speaking with all of you, my friends, on how she found her niche in the very competitive choral environment in the greater Boston area, and how she planned the entire project and found the right people [to bring] on board to make the experience valuable and worthy. Jennifer Kane is an active conductor of ensembles that specialize in treble repertoire. Her recent engagements include serving as music director of Cantelina Women’s Chorale in Arlington, Massachusetts and guest conductor of the Concord Women’s Chorus. Jennifer is also a conductor with the Handel and Haydn Society Youth Choruses, where she directs children ranging in age from 8 to 15.

Chaowen: 4:15
Welcome to the show, Jennifer, I’m so thrilled to have you for another episode of The Conductor’s Podcast. And I can’t wait for you to share your story and experience with my audience.

Jennifer: 4:26
Great, thank you so much for having me. I’m excited to be here.

Chaowen: 4:30
So before we get started, though, will you give everybody a brief intro–just a little bit about your background and how [you’ve gotten] to where you are right now?

Jennifer: 4:39
Of course. I am a choral conductor living just outside of Boston, Massachusetts. I grew up in Atlanta, Georgia, so where you are now. I’ve been involved in choral music since I was a child chorister in the Atlanta Young Singers of Callanwolde. And at the time–gosh, I’m gonna date myself here–but in middle school, there were only two children’s choral ensembles in Atlanta, and only one of them accepted girls. So that was Callanwolde, so that’s where I grew up singing.

Jennifer: 5:13
And through that experience, I was fortunate enough to receive some life-changing opportunities. I got to travel internationally, I got to sing in world premiere pieces, we got to collaborate and sing with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra chorus every year, got to sing under the baton of Robert Shaw, and just make some lifelong friends that were really committed to singing and choral music. And again, it was just life changing. And it really influenced passions that I still pursue today.

Jennifer: 5:43
So I knew from an early age that I wanted to be involved in choral music as a career. But it was not until I got married and lived in a small town in east rural Georgia–you might know this, actually, since you’re driving to Augusta each week: do you drive by Washington, Georgia, that exit?

Chaowen: 6:02
Oh, yeah!

Jennifer: 6:02
Well, it wasn’t Washington, Georgia; we were actually in a suburb of Washington called Tignall, Georgia, which at the time, I think it had 750 people there?–which my husband and I used to joke and say that had to include the livestock, because there was only one traffic light in the town and it was tiny. And so when I was looking for a job, the only job that I could get was as the choir director at the Baptist Church one town over, in Lincolnton, Georgia. And I went and did that. And I’d had a choral conducting class in college and loved it, but my first hands-on experience was at Lincolnton Baptist Church. And it was such a game changer. I loved it.

Jennifer: 6:33
And so from there, I just kept getting bigger and bigger jobs for it. We moved back to Atlanta, so I was able to access, you know, large church jobs and other opportunities and eventually ended up getting my master’s at Georgia State University in choral conducting. And once we moved to Boston, I applied for the doctoral program at Boston University and got accepted to study with Dr. Ian Howard Jones.

Chaowen: 7:09
That’s really exciting. And yes, I do drive to Augusta four times a month. (laughs) It’s not terrible. The hardest is driving back after the concert–I usually get home by 1AM with no traffic, but sometimes there’s construction and other things that Atlanta is known for. So we have all heard how difficult it has been for vocalists and for choral directors during the pandemic, because of the fear of COVID air transmission. And also, it seems like choirs got back to in-person performances or even rehearsals much later than some of the instrumentalists, for example, the string players. So, as a non-singer, I can only imagine how challenging and difficult that was. Could you just talk to us about what your reality was and how things had been shaken up?

Jennifer: 8:09
Sure. Well, yes, it was, I think, as I had said many times, it was essentially [that] getting the news that singing was not a safe activity was really a kick in the gut. And I think just every choral conductor in the country was probably on the same webinar for the National Association of Teachers of Singing on an evening in March, and we all heard the same scientific recommendations at the same time, that singing was no longer a safe opportunity or a safe thing for us to be doing together. And of course, there had just been some deaths out in Washington as a result of spread in a choral rehearsal. And it was just such a blow.

Jennifer: 8:56
So it was, you know, there was certainly some grieving at the time–I mean, just [the] loss of opportunity [for] making music together and not being able to connect with our choral colleagues or our students in our choral organizations in person. It was the loss of great opportunities that were on the horizon: I was set to be a part of a St. Matthew Passion with the Handel and Haydn Society, and it was the first time that my students were going to be involved and get to sing a little treble line in that first movement, and all of that was gone. And so it was just a time of grieving.

Jennifer: 9:30
And then once we realized that this was going to be a longer term activity, it was–you know, you just had to pick yourself back up and figure out, Okay, so we’re going to continue singing, and how can we do this? And at the time, you know, it was literally just saying, Okay, I’m going to be teaching online. These are my goals for my ensembles, and this is what I have to work with. I’m going to be teaching on Zoom, you know, maybe we’ll have an assistant conductor, and figuring out what I had to work with and putting those two things together to come up with a plan where I could still work and teach singing to the best of our ability and give people a great musical experience within the context of what we had. It was a very challenging year.

Jennifer: 10:20
I taught all of my ensembles in the virtual platform for the 2020-2021 academic year. And in doing so, I think I tapped into a level of creativity that I did not know that I had, but I needed to do it, because I was teaching a communal activity in an individual way. I mean, people were singing by themselves at home–they can only hear themselves sing, as opposed to being able to hear each other. And it was very challenging, but we made it, and we had some really great artistic projects come out of it.

Jennifer: 11:01
And I’m happy to say that, you know, now we’re back in person, fortunately–obviously, still with tremendous protocols. And depending on the group, you know, we may not necessarily be performing yet in the way that a lot of instrumental ensembles are, but we were at least starting to rehearse together in small bits and safely. But I can tell that even in that virtual year, that there was still music that was made, and that there was still progress that was made; I can hear that in the voices this year.

Jennifer: 11:34
And as we’ve been returning to in-person teaching and in-person music making, I’ve been thinking about the things about the virtual experience that worked really well, and finding that, you know, there might be some space and some ways to incorporate those items into our in-person teaching as well, to really round out and deepen our experience, now that we’re back together.

Chaowen: 12:00
Yeah, I could really only talk about the experience I had, because my mom is also a choral director and she directed community choirs. My entire family is still back in Taiwan, and they were very fortunate that they didn’t shut down at all until very late. It was almost in May [of] this year [that] they had the first shutdown. It was much later than the rest of the world. And she was panicking–my mom is in her 60s, and that’s the age of most of her choir members because they were just singing for fun. And she was panicking, trying to navigate Google Meet or Zoom or do a Facebook Live. And I saw the struggle that was so real. Can you maybe talk a little bit about what you meant by some of the good things that really came out from virtual teaching? Because I heard from others as well, that there were actually some other things that benefited the students in that setting?

Jennifer: 13:01
Yeah, well, one thing that comes to mind right away is that we did a lot more individualized coaching, because, I mean, we were all essentially singing individually at home. And so it worked out that we had some extra staff available to help out in rehearsals. And we could break up into smaller groups and work in breakout rooms. And I could get to hear the students sing individually and offer immediate feedback and coaching. And I really felt like that helped them move much more productively in their vocal journey. Even though we were separated, I could hear it in the recordings that they made for me, because again, we were still offering projects; they were just all virtual. So the students would have to make recordings for me frequently. And I could really tell from start to finish for that school year that there was a lot of great work that happened and some growth.

Jennifer: 13:59
The other thing that I thought was so interesting, and that I’ve commented to some of my faculty at the Handel and Haydn Society is that whereas before–sometimes I’ll ask for volunteers to demonstrate an idea in rehearsal. And most of my students are middle school and young high school students. And of course, you know, you ask them to sing out loud in front of their peers, and they’re like, No. (laughs) Look, it’s like pulling teeth to get them to do that. But now I ask them, and they’ve gotten so accustomed to sharing that way in front of each other, that the hands just shoot up. And that is the first time that I’ve seen that level of enthusiasm and engagement and in being willing to sing for their peers, I think, in my entire teaching career.

Jennifer: 14:48
I mean, it’s really exciting to see, and that’s something that I hope that we keep, that I hope that we are able to keep in our rehearsals, and the same thing with the individualized instruction: we’ll continue to do some more small group work. My habit has been to keep the big group together and we all work together, and I keep all of the students engaged as we’re working through, but there was a lot of value in that small group work. And we will certainly keep that going as well.

Chaowen: 15:16
Yeah, that’s definitely one thing that I feel that I’m missing, because now, it’s crazy here in Georgia. It feels like nothing had happened; we have no restrictions statewide. So I’ve already [had] three, four orchestra concerts already by the time of this recording, which is mid November. And when we are back to this performance-driven mode, we are so focused on just everybody getting together and present[ing] the concert together. And there was no time and no space and no bandwidth, really, to focus on individualized feedback or coaching or even have small sectionals, because we just really want to jump back to playing something that is great, that is big. But I didn’t really see a lot of benefits for you and your students. And I saw that we have the highest rate of student officers this year, because everybody just wanted to participate and get involved.

Jennifer: 16:19
That’s lovely.

Chaowen: 16:21
So I really want to congratulate you on initiating the NOVA Women’s Choral Project. I know that you had some really exciting events in October 2021. Could you please talk to us in more detail about how you started this group and what you have achieved?

Jennifer: 16:39
Sure. So NOVA Women’s Choral Project is really the result of my desire to combine choral music and activism, particularly with regard to women’s issues. And I’ve been involved–in addition to teaching with the Handel and Haydn Society, I’ve been involved in women’s choral music in different aspects around Boston for several years and just really, really enjoy that repertoire and working with soprano and alto singers. So it’s been something that I’ve come to organically.

Jennifer: 17:11
I was actually planning to launch NOVA in the fall of 2020. And I had, you know, given notice to one of my employers, because I thought, Okay, I’m going to finish up in the spring of 2020 with one organization, and then I’m going to launch this new thing in the fall. And you know, that just didn’t really work out the way we thought it was going to. So as a result, I opted to wait until we had more information about what was gonna be happening with a pandemic. Because, you know, initially, I think a lot of us–I mean, there was just no concept of how long this was going to go on. And was it really wise to launch something brand new at that moment, when we were still gathering so much information and there was not a vaccine? So I opted to wait, but I still kept thinking about it.

Jennifer: 18:00
And you know, one of the…well, ‘cool’ is not a good word to use with regard to a pandemic. But one of the interesting things about working in the pandemic was that we got to make connections with people that we hadn’t necessarily been able to make connections with before, just by virtue of the fact that there were a lot of meetings on Zoom. And it was just easier to connect with people virtually than it had ever been to connect with people in person.

Jennifer: 18:27
So even though I wasn’t able to start NOVA, I was able to meet people who are doing similar work in other parts of the country, I was able to think about the product, I was able to put together more ideas and really let it develop. So consequently, when I launched NOVA this year, in the fall of 2021, I actually think that it was a different ensemble than the one that I would have launched a year earlier.

Jennifer: 18:55
So our first project, I actually had something much larger in mind: I was going to do a get-together of a smaller group of singers and then put together a small program, and then we would also host a women’s choral workshop where we gathered a larger group of women to sing works by women composers. And, of course, the rise of the Delta variant came and I got cold feet about that, because there was a lot of fear. And you know, I think we’d all hoped that we were going to be returning in the fall of 2021 to singing without fear, but the fear was definitely still there. And in some cases, it was increasing.

Jennifer: 19:35
So I altered my plans and I basically recruited singers for this workshop with the understanding that they were going to come in and be able to sing the repertoire, so they had to prepare themselves at home. I did offer two optional rehearsals in case anybody wanted assistance getting prepared. But basically most of the women came in on that morning at the workshop and they had done the work at home and they were ready to sing. And it was interesting for me to see how that worked, how they came together. So it was really exciting in that sense.

Jennifer: 20:11
And of course, I was delighted by the level of music making and just the the enthusiasm for singing. And it was really, really terrific. So when we actually finally got together for our workshop, the women were beautifully prepared. We sang some wonderful works by composers, such as Michael Bussewitz-Quarm, we did a work by Sarah Quartel. We did something by Melissa Dunphy. And it was just a really great day of music making with women from around the area, some who were singing music professionally, some who were music educators, some who liked to sing at a high level, but do other things professionally. And we all did it in support of the charity Dignity Matters.

Jennifer: 20:56
One of the things that I wanted to do with NOVA was to have a group where we are working with the community on a regular basis, and we’re really giving our voice to other women as well to raise awareness of those issues. And Dignity Matters is a charity that supports homeless women throughout the Boston and probably central Massachusetts area who are homeless and who are in need of feminine products, things that they can’t find in food pantries or shelters: tampons, pads, bras, underwear. So Dignity Matters goes and collects all of these items, which are actually so expensive to purchase individually.

Jennifer: 21:39
And so what we all did was, instead of paying for the workshop, we all brought in items to donate, and I took a huge carload of items to Dignity Matters and got to take a tour of their workshop and learn more about their organization and how they support women throughout the Massachusetts area. So it was great. It was, as I think I mentioned to you before, it was just a glorious day of music making, and I left that day so excited about what was possible. We did get to make some recordings of the repertoire, and it’s impossible for me to listen to them without smiling. I’m just so excited about the possibilities.

Chaowen: 22:15
Yeah, it sounds like such an amazing event. And I loved what you’re doing, like every single point. And I thought it’s so important for my audience to hear that, because we were in a mastermind group when Jennifer was just planning this event, and I asked her something that was amazing for me to hear. And I want everybody to hear that, too. So how did you find a niche to start a new choral group? Because I imagine there are so many in the Boston area. So when you are wanting to start a new one, how do you differentiate yourself from others and still attract the professionals, like the good musicians, that you want to attract?

Jennifer: 22:56
I think for me, it really came from my own inspiration from an experience that I’d had that was really my driving force. And I think I shared this with you in the mastermind group, is that about–I think it’s like three years ago?–I was involved in a collaborative performance in the greater Boston area with the women’s chorus I was conducting at the time, another women’s chorus in the area, and a homeless women’s chorus in Boston. And we put together a benefit concert that raised money to benefit homeless women in Boston, through the Women’s Lunch Place.

Jennifer: 23:36
And this was my idea at the outset, I wanted to do a collaborative project, I wanted to do a benefit concert. I mean, I say these things like you know, I wanted to do this. And I think I had certain ideas or things that I thought would be happening as a result of this. But it wasn’t until we actually got to the day of the performance–and I mean, I’m walking through the green room, which happened to be the sacristy of the church where we were putting on this benefit concert, and I saw one of my alto twos, Emma, braiding the hair of one of the members of the homeless women’s chorus, and they were talking and they were laughing, like they were old friends.

Jennifer: 24:17
And I think that moment was just so poignant for me, and I saw it and I had to kind of make a beeline out and just have a moment [to] think about what we were doing. I mean, yes, we were going to put on a great show. And yes, we were going to be raising money for a very worthy cause. But there was also something that was so powerful about the fact that we brought all of these women together to sing together and use their voices together in solidarity that I just had not really considered before until I actually saw some of the interaction, and it just hit me on such a deeper level. And then I came away from that experience deeply changed and I couldn’t stop thinking about it, actually.

Jennifer: 25:02
And so that’s what put me on the road to…I’d really like to do more with this, you know, and that was sort of the inspiration, and for me, some of it was [that] there were some business practicalities as well, it was looking at a map and saying, you know, here’s where some of the other choral organizations are in town that are doing similar work, where are some spots that this community is not being served? Or doing some work with the choral consortiums and compare and contrast? What are other groups in the area offering? And what is it that would set my group apart?

Jennifer: 25:41
So I had to answer some questions you know, about who were, you know, what was our goal? Who were we going to be speaking to as singers, and who were we going to be speaking to as an audience? And if I didn’t feel like I could move forward with building the organization until I had answered those three questions–and not answered like one sentence, but I mean, fleshed them out in paragraph form, just so that I knew, and I wrapped my head around what my goals were. And so once I had those, and once I knew the direction we were going, and I wanted to offer this product–and of course, I’d been speaking with colleagues and bouncing ideas off of everyone–so once I finally launched it, I just put it all out there: I built a website, and I pretty much put my goals and manifesto out there for the world to see. And I put that out in all of our publicity materials.

Jennifer: 26:39
And the women who came to sing, you know, they’re not paid singers. I’m not charging them, either. I’m asking them to donate their time, their time, and their talent in service to others, in exchange for a really unique and exciting musical opportunity. But I think that it was just really a matter of finding our people. And I think the workshopping experience was helpful in that regard as well, because it allowed us to find the people who really got what it was that we were looking for. And in fact, the day of the workshop, we were only able to sing in 15 minute blocks, because of COVID. So we’d have to sing for 15 minutes, and then we’d clear the space for 15 minutes, and then we can come back in. That’s our life right now.

Jennifer: 27:33
Anyway, so during the 15 minute breaks, I would make use of that time. And I actually broke up the singers into small groups, and I challenged them to come up with some ideas, where we could offer choral singing in ways that would be really exciting and influential in the community and really serve the community. And they came up with some great lists and opportunities and ideas. And I was really excited about that, because in some sense, they’re almost co-collaborators in this process. Because I’ve had all of these ideas by myself for, you know, however long I’ve been dreaming about this possibility, but opening the experience up to other thoughts and other ideas from people who share the same vision and some of these same passions cut some really great ideas about things that we can do in the future and some directions that we can explore. And I’m really excited about the possibilities.

Chaowen: 28:29
I think you mentioned great things [come from] a great vision, that you can’t start and jump into something before you know clearly your purpose, why you’re doing that, and who you’re serving other than yourself. And I made this mistake with one of my previous startups; for example, I started an opera company just because I thought I would like to have some opera conducting experience. So why not start an opera company, so I can get to conduct people? When [in fact] it didn’t turn out that way, because I wasn’t really thinking clear[ly] with who I was serving and what was my purpose–of course, I was offering great music, [but] so did a lot of other organizations.

Chaowen: 29:15
And you also mentioned the business side of it, because it’s about practicality: you want to make sure that it will be sustainable, your organization is viable, and you will be attracting the right people that you want on the bus. It’s much harder to get rid of bad people from the bus…yeah, it’s such an important thing. So what are some other things that you’ve learned from your experience of organizing this event and also kind of really starting a new ensemble?

Jennifer: 29:49
So I think, certainly, having confidence in your ideas–and being willing to take risks, I think, is important. I kept looking at the quote–and I cannot remember for the life of me who wrote it right now–but something about going out, you know, you have to go all the way out to the end of the branch to get the fruit. And it’s worth taking that risk, I think, in order to get the fruit.

Jennifer: 30:18
The other thing that I learned was that I really had to give myself time in order to be creative, that, you know, creativity doesn’t come in a vacuum. When the pandemic started, you know, by January of 2020, I was quite tired: I had a heavy professional schedule, I was trying to keep up with my kids, and I had this idea that didn’t even have a name yet. It was just this idea that I’d had that I hadn’t had time to work on and I hadn’t had time to bring to fruition. And I realized at that time that if I really wanted to bring it to life, that I was going to have to make space for it, I was going to have to give it time, I was going to have to give it some air to breathe, and some mental energy.

Jennifer: 31:07
And so I actually had to let go of a couple of opportunities in order to carve out that time, and in order to carve out that space and give it life. And that’s a hard thing for me to realize, because I think we all like to have all these great opportunities. And I really had to come to the point where I was, I wanted to do NOVA; I wanted to see what was going to happen with this idea, so much so that I was willing to let go of something that I was excited about in another opportunity in order to see what was going to happen. And I did that, and it was a risk. And I don’t regret that risk. I mean, I don’t regret making that choice. It was what needed to happen in order for me to have time and space. And again, then when the pandemic hit, we all had a lot of extra time.

Jennifer: 31:56
But I still think that the NOVA that launched this fall is better for having had all the time that I put into it, thinking about it, talking about it with people, doing research, connecting with composers, connecting with other women’s choral directors, just the decompression and also the creativity of you know, all the things that I learned about teaching in a pandemic. So I think I finished in May of 2021 thinking, Gosh, what can I do, you know, teaching? Because I felt like I had done it all. And so I feel like NOVA has a little bit of that spirit in it now, too. I mean, what can’t we do in in this ensemble? It’ll be interesting to see, you know, how it grows and it changes if we give it the space and the ways to grow.

Chaowen: 32:52
I think this is so wonderful. And what is your next event for NOVA? Do you have something in mind already?

Jennifer: 33:00
I do. Actually, in the little breakout sessions that I mentioned, all of the groups mentioned all kinds of different aspects, things that they were interested in tackling. There was working with people who are imprisoned; there were, you know, doing projects with kids; there was, you know, working with the homeless population. But one theme that came across all the breakout groups was taking on different aspects of mental health.

Jennifer: 33:33
And for me, I was excited to see that, because choral music and mental health and how they intersect is has been an area of research of mine for the past couple of years, just for personal reasons that we lost a friend to suicide a couple of years ago. And so that’s just been on my mind as well. And so I was excited to see that other people were thinking in that direction as well.

Jennifer: 33:59
So we are planning to put together a production–we are still trying to iron out whether it’s going to be an actual live concert with an audience or if we’re going to record it, but it’s going to be on the theme of mental health. And going into the pandemic, even before the pandemic hit, there was such a stigma attached to issues of mental health. You know, we speak about some of those issues almost with an element of shame.

Jennifer: 34:29
And so we’re putting on this concert as a means to combat that stigma. We would like to use choral music as just a means to support the community and to combat the stigma [to the extent] that anyone might feel that speaking about mental health and connecting with others or asking for help is not okay.

Chaowen: 34:47
That’s actually one of the great things that I saw from the pandemic, which is sad to talk about, because I know the pandemic was horrible. A lot of people lost their lives, their family, their loved ones, jobs, and the world is certainly different now. But I am very glad that we are being more aware of mental health or at least openly talking about those issues.

Chaowen: 35:14
But I’m so grateful to have you here on the show. I will put [everything] in the show notes, but I wanted to have you talk to our audience. So if they want to connect with you, how can they find you? Either social media or website, anything that you’re comfortable giving out.

Jennifer: 35:32
Sure. You can find more about NOVA at our website, which is novawcp.org. And you can connect with me via email there, or my email address is novawcp@gmail.com.

Chaowen: 36:00
Thank you so much, Jennifer.

Jennifer: 36:03
Thank you so much, Chaowen. It was great to be here.

Chaowen: 36:08
So here you have it. I hope you love this chat as much as I do. What was your biggest takeaway from the conversation? I have to say that I was totally amazed when I met Jennifer for the first time at the mastermind meeting, when she talked about how she found her niche when planning this project. And this kind of thinking, my friends, has become something really important. Conductors nowadays not only need to know the music and have fine conducting techniques, but also need to have great leadership and interpersonal skills, know something about marketing and business, and a lot more.

Chaowen: 36:51
Jennifer used three questions to guide her in the process of forming the group, which are: What was our goal? Whom are we speaking to as singers? And whom are we speaking to as audience members? These three seemingly simple and straightforward questions actually form the pillars of every endeavor that we are taking on? Who are we serving on both ends of the project? And what is our purpose? What is the goal that we are trying to achieve? Be clear on the answers, and don’t forget that as the project evolves, sometimes the answers might change, and [that] is totally okay.

Chaowen: 37:38
What are some new projects that you are currently working on? Or are you following through with an already planned project? No matter what you’re working on, remember to be confident in yourself and take risks, and to give yourself time to plan and find the right people. Jim Collins said in his book, “Good to Great”, that the first step of making a good company into a great company is to find the right people on the bus. According to Collins, it’s more critical to find the right people first, then figure out where you’re going, as the right people will continue to attract good people and to make fine decisions. Do you agree with him?

Chaowen: 38:26
I’m going to wrap up today’s episode here. And please share any new projects or new steps that you’ve taken on an existing project with me; you know that I always love to hear from you. If you’re loving this show, please don’t forget to subscribe and leave a review; this will be the greatest encouragement for me. Okay, I’ll see you next week at the same time, same place. Bye for now.