Connecting the dots...
The first part of this story can be found in more detail HERE, a piece I wrote for the Art House America blog. It's called "RV's, Uniforms, Airplanes, and Rockstars: My Personal Story of Social Justice."
The theme of choice and directions and guidance came early on. The choice of where to go to college was an agonizing one. Which road is the one to take? Do I stay in Illinois and go a more stable route or do I take my anxiety-ridden, white-knuckled afraid-of-flying self down to south Florida to pursue the arts? "Choose the direction that will force you to trust God the most, Andrea." Gulp. Flying. Florida. PIVOT.
COLLEGE 2003-2007. Dance + Psychology, double major. Take first acting class. Do a scene from Barefoot in the Park. The school decides to mount a production of Barefoot in the Park. "You have to be a major to be considered for a lead role." PIVOT. Musical theatre major and dance major. Need to fulfill all of the performance requirements and still graduate in four years?
Design your own major. Fill out the paperwork. Pitch it to the Dean. Have it approved by the school. Actually graduate in four years. Receive diploma in the mail without any issue. Surprising, relieving. Now start paying off those loans.
CHICAGO. Find a job that's flexible enough for you to take advanced professional level jazz classes during the day. Teach tap at night.
Work as an extra in Christian Bale movies. The Dark Knight. Public Enemies. Bob your hair PHOTOOOO.
Choreograph and direct a tap musical.
WCCC and choreography.
Take the Walk --
Words from Chad: "You should talk to Charlie Peacock. He's really into spiritual formation for artists & social justice." Then I got a message and friend request on Facebook. Visit Nashville in May, move in September. PIVOT.
Sept 2009. First weekend in Nashville: work as a production assistant for The Doorpost Film Festival Awards & Gala at The Belcourt Theatre. Work as an assistant to Charlie Peacock (TwentyTen Music, Art House America, CP Productions) at his home / office / studio known as The Art House, while The Civil Wars are recording their GRAMMY Award winning album Barton Hollow there.
When assisting hours grow thin based on the season, find some more work to do. Work part-time for The Mocha Club, they do really great things in the world. Also work part-time for Monday Night Music, the merch subsidiary of Dryve Artist Management (now BE Music & Entertainment). And when that's not enough, do what every theatre major with student loans does: get your first serving job.
Monochromatic, androgynous uniforms and overwhelming first restaurant = The Cheesecake Factory is not a happy time of life. Moreover, it's during this time that I find out my mom has developed cancer. The flexibility of all of my part time jobs does, however, allow me to go back to Chicago to see her.
"Have you ever heard of Philanthropy? Maybe they're hiring." Philanthropy = Fashion + Compassion. It's me to a T. I just want to be a philanthropist when I grow up. They offer me full time hours. Say goodbye to Cheesecake (peace out!). Step one step closer to your calling.
Holidays come and go. Hours that were plentiful now are slow. Pick up a few shifts at Nashville Clothing Company before it goes out of business. Write haikus on the chalkboard out in front of the store, just because you can (and always should). Teach teenagers how to tap dance.
Sandra McCracken hears Christie Bragg needs a new assistant and tells her to meet me. We meet at Fido. PIVOT. Immediately begin work in the lower level office for Bragg Management. Such a gracious springboard for continued opportunities in Nashville at just the right time. For a long time in Nashville, it was home.
Fast forward to spring 2010, Andrea goes to The Village of Hope in Uganda for a short but life-changing ten days (except for the one day we got stuck in the Detroit airport). VIDEOSSSSS. While in Uganda, it is announced that Charlie Peacock will MC the Blood:Water Mission 1,000 Wells "Well Done" celebration at The Ryman Auditorium. Performers to include: Hanson, Derek Webb, Sandra McCracken, Jars of Clay.
Come home from Africa, return to Bragg Management, and figure out what to do with all of that heart-affection that Village of Hope stirred up. Then I got an email from Got Your Back, a new non-profit a friend of mine - whom I met during my first weekend in Nashville with Doorpost - was involved in launching. They're going to assemble a small team to travel the country and help kids in Africa obtain an education. I'm sold - hook, line, and sinker.
Summer of 2010: Single-handedly organize house show tour for Sandra McCracken & Derek Webb while on the road as a promotional intern for the Got Your Back Movement.
Live in and drive a 36 ft RV with 4-5 other people. Unpaid. Travel to music festivals around the country from Minnesota to Washington, California to Kentucky. Tell the story of the GYB Movement, sell t-shirts that will provide school uniforms for impoverished children in Haiti & Kenya.
Fall of 2010: Return to Bragg Management. Words from Chad: "You should try to book house shows for other artists too." Why not? Scribble the names of artists I already know on the back of a napkin, like all start-ups begin. PIVOT.
Get licensed to teach Zumba. Why not? Begin teaching at the YMCA. Booking house shows. Fulfilling merch orders. Artist management. Play in a band just for fun.
Text from Sandra: "Would you ever be open to a job in Tulsa, OK?" // "I don't know. Do they have Chipotle there?"
Summer of 2011: Interview at a Starbucks in Tulsa, OK to work for Hanson.
It goes better than ever anticipated. No official job offer extended at the time but it's all okay, even the $100+ ticket I received for not having cash to pay the Oklahoma toll people.
Amidst artist management, there's a desire to grow and take on new challenges. Marketing? Booking? Take a meeting with a contact of a mutual friend at CAA (Creative Artist Agency). Talk about house shows and such and skip along your merry way. Then randomly hear from a friend that her marketing agency is hiring. Randomly take a meeting and get the job. I suppose not everyone reads tweets from Hypebot? Grateful for the opportunity to grow.
Discover that your expectations are sometimes very wrong. Realize the importance of a company's culture, communication patterns, and unspoken values and expectations. Decide that life is too short to stay in a situation that is clearly not a good fit. Work hard. Try. Pray. Cry. Work hard. Try. Pray. Cry.
Get an email from CAA. "Want to have coffee?" PIVOT. Decide to take a leap of faith and walk toward a new aspect of the industry and a more hospitable environment. Ride the elevator to the Penthouse floor of a fancy downtown building. Get free lunch at a fancy downtown restaurant. Get a job offer but...
Turn down job offer from CAA; to hold on to the house show booking business I began would be a conflict of interest according to their corporate office policy. I just left a job in the hopes of a job I might get, was offered, but ultimately turned down. Decide to remain independent freelancer and see what's next. PIVOT.
Get hired on a temporary contract to assist in management and Kickstarter fulfillment for Audrey Assad. Meet JR Montes. PIVOT. "I've heard about you. We should get coffee."
Coffee = blue lagoon smoothie at Sam & Zoe's. Emotionally and physically burnt out, JR asks about my hopes and dreams, as he is prone to do. I take the meeting out of courtesy but don't expect or hope or think too much of it. "Why don't you come by the office tomorrow?" A trip to Franklin quickly opened the door to becoming a full fledged booking agent. "Take who you are and what you've done, bring it with you, and I'll help develop both of them." No micro-managing, no passive-aggressiveness, no crappy artists, and no relinquishing of what I'd already begun to build. Instead? A long leash, an office of laughter, artists of excellence, and a team of positivity.
11 months go by, full of hard-work, sweat-equity, laughter and frustration. Some artists come, some artists go. Some tours come together, some tours disappear. And sometimes you have to do what's best for the company as a whole, including go along with unexpected hard decisions.
So you pivot.