By Karlie Ady
I grew up listening. I listened to my parents, to the background noise of a house full of siblings, and to hours of piano practice between them. I listened to my mom teach voice lessons and to the serenades of Gene Kelly and Judy Garland. I listened to my older sister’s musicality at the piano, as she explored each note’s motivation and crafted their purpose into being. I listened to teachers at school, at church, and in music studios. I listened to my own music, internalizing and listening, self-critiquing and listening, hoping to craft a talent so unique that in turn, someone would want to listen to me.
Most artists can relate with my experience. Like athletes, we must work with a dedicated, nearly singular focus to hone technique and master our craft. We must understand and rise to industry standards, yet somehow remain creative and unique in order to stand out in a vocation with highly competitive employment opportunities. This high-pressure environment leaves room for little else, and the business and leadership skills needed to thrive as an artist in any professional community, let alone as a woman, find little or no place in our education.
Women’s Artistic Leadership Initiative is about finding your voice. It’s about recognizing that to create lasting change, we need many voices to be heard. All kinds of voices, each with its own unique life perspective. It’s about making space where there is none and shaping communities and industries in the process. It’s about initiating subtle shifts of mentality that make life–changing impacts, and securing a bright future full of opportunity and respect for men and women alike. It may seem a lofty ambition, but we are moving forward with confidence in our vision for purposeful impact: connection and support.
It’s nothing new. But what sets us apart is our execution. At Women’s ALI our three-fold mission stands at the heart of everything we do; educate, empower, and engage everyone who comes in contact with our organization at any level. We achieve this through a series of educational events, culminating with our annual Summer Leadership Intensive where we aim to help young female artists develop business acumen and leadership skills through a series of keynote speakers, workshops and round-table discussions.
The idea for the non-profit itself comes from founder, Dr. Stephanie Rhodes Russell, who firmly believes that her career trajectory to becoming a conductor would have looked very different had she benefited early on from the education and mentorship opportunities that we now provide. It was this realization that more was needed to create success which set our Summer Leadership Intensive into motion. Women’s ALI just completed its inaugural intensive with astounding success, and we can attest that our efforts were transformed through our guiding principles: meaningful connection and support.
First, our fellows had the opportunity to connect with each other, forming cross-disciplinary relationships across the arts and across different walks of life. As one ALI Fellow expressed, “It was a great way to meet lots of interesting people from really diverse backgrounds. That was one of my favorite things–realizing there were so many examples of ways to live and thrive. Resulting discussions fostered significant idea sharing and a feeling that all would mutually benefit from each other’s successes. Every fellow shared excitement at the prospect of participating in social media groups dedicated to Women’s ALI alumni, thus allowing for exponential network expansion with like-minded women all committed to each other’s development.
Second, as part of our curriculum, fellows were paired with relevant professional mentors whose aim was not only to help expand participant networks, but to offer long-term support and guidance to these women just beginning their careers. The resulting sense of empowerment was so strong that everyone, staff and fellows alike, left the intensive believing in the words of keynote speaker Dr. Susan Madsen: “The world desperately needs you [women] to be leaders. We need every man, woman and child to lead in their respective area, whatever that may be. I’ve found my calling, where I will lead. Now you need to find how you will lead. The world needs you to lead.“
And so, we here at Women’s Artistic Leadership Initiative are ready to be heard. We’re moving beyond listening into action. We’re creating a platform for our artists’ voices to be heard and we’re supporting them in the process. We’re mounting a network of allies, women’s ALI’s, with the expectation that we will not only help shape our communities and the professional landscape into a place of interconnectivity and parity–we will lead it there.
Karlie Ady is a musician, co-founder and acting Vice President Secretary of Women’s ALI. She graduated in vocal performance from Utah State University with high honors and has since performed in several venues throughout Utah and Massachusetts. Karlie is passionate about the importance of music in children’s lives, and enjoyed performing with the USU children’s opera during school as well as developing a pre-K music curriculum used in her community in Concord, MA. More recently, she turned her focus to composition, hoping to release a compilation of original works and arrangements in the near future. She currently resides in Layton, Utah with her wonderful husband Ryan and their five children. Connect with Karlie on LinkedIn and on Instagram @karlieady.