Front and Center: GLAM Creator and Director, Amy Mertz

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Front and Center: GLAM Creator and Director, Amy Mertz

Screen Shot 2014-07-31 at 5.59.07 PMGLAM (Girls Leadership Academy for Music) is an innovative new program for high school girls interested in pursuing leadership positions in their schools or careers.

Through workshops, guest speakers, practical rehearsal experience and more, attendees learn a variety of skills and gain the confidence to become musical leaders in their own communities.

As creator and director of GLAM, Amy Mertz utilizes her extensive background in music education to guide these young women. Mertz has taught music on both the elementary and middle school levels, and in addition to her work through GLAM, serves as assistant director for admissions and community programs at the Setnor School of Music at Syracuse University.

You can find out more about GLAM in our interview with Mertz below, and check them out online here.

WiMN: Can you tell us about your background in music and how you became affiliated with GLAM?

AM: My background is in music education. I have both a bachelors and masters in music education. I have taught elementary, middle school and college music, I have worked as a concert and operations manager, and am now the Assistant Director for Admissions and Community Programs at the Setnor School of Music at Syracuse University. As far as my affiliation with GLAM goes – I am the creator and director of the program.

WiMN: Tell us about GLAM. What is the goal and mission of the organization?

AM: GLAM stands for the “Girls Leadership Academy for Music.” The program is for high school girls involved in music with an interest in leadership. It is in its second year, and meets for a week (5 days) in July. The goal is to envelop young women in all of the skills that they need to be musical leaders in their schools communities, and ultimately have that spill into their lives as productive adults in the working world.

WiMN: What kind of programs/workshops does GLAM offer?

AM: GLAM has four main workshops: Personnel Leadership, Professional Leadership, Music Leadership and Event Planning.

These young women will go back to their schools and become leaders of a cappella groups, executive board members of their Tri-M society chapters, drum majors, section leaders, etc. Through the workshops they learn about budgeting, time management, how to “build a team,” how to run rehearsals, how to plan an event from start to finish and more.

There is also a practical component – we actually set the girls up with a small ensemble of their own to rehearse for the week, and the entire program culminates in a performance of all of those groups.They work with a mentor to evaluate their performance each day, and plan for the next rehearsal. “Academy” is where we address current events for women – for women in leadership and for women in music. We also bring in guest speakers to give the girls a sense of “what might come next,” as they contemplate their post-high school years.

WiMN: How can young women in high school benefit from participating in music?

AM: Music has such a breadth of leadership opportunities. Section leader, drum major, musical director, stage manager, music librarian – there are so many different options at that age and each would help build confidence and provide them with practical leadership experience. They also look pretty great on a resume or college application.

Plus, music has built in differentiation. Most sections are broken down in multiple parts such as “first violin” or “alto two.” Whether you plan to go on to a career in music, or you just happened to pick up that trumpet you found in your attic – if you dedicate yourself and practice – your peers will see that almost regardless of your ability level. You will be able to positively contribute to the whole, and that is a powerful feeling.

WiMN: What is some advice you’d offer to a young woman pursuing a career in music?

AM: Think “broad.” Right now your experiences are likely limited to whatever your high school offers – and those are terrific – but there is a vast musical world out there. Thousands upon thousands of people make their lives in music everyday. They perform it, compose it, write about it, record it, teach it, promote it, film it, protect it, defend it – and most of us actually do a combination of those things. There are so many possibilities.

Talk to your music teachers, your peers attending music schools, your college admissions counselors, and reach out to people in the industry. The music world is small, and I’ve found that the majority of us are happy to help and advise the next generation.

WiMN: Who are some of your heroes in the industry – musicians or otherwise?

AM: Certainly Marin Alsop and JoAnn Faletta. Those two women are hardly the only female orchestral conductors, but their prominence in such high-level, full-time, professional orchestras means they bear the burden of helping pave the way for women in a predominantly male field. I hope that through their success and the success of other women, we start to converse about “conductors” rather than “female” or “male” conductors.

I did an exercise with the girls in GLAM this year where I asked them to raise their hands if they had been in orchestra, and to keep them raised if they had ever had a female orchestral conductor. One person kept their hand up and said “one time for an honors ensemble” but other than that, there was no one. It was a real revelation for the girls, who had never really noticed how the female music teachers had largely evaporated from their high school education.

WiMN: Can you share your experience as a woman in the industry? Have there been challenges for you or any of your peers?

AM: To be honest, I’m not entirely sure if there have been any challenges for me. Early in my career it didn’t even occur to me that we were still talking about gender equality. I thought that was already checked off the cultural “to do” list.

Some of my peers have reported to me that it can be tough to get gigs in male-dominated parts of the industry (like percussion, for example, or even high school band). Others have mentioned how the advice to women seeking jobs is often to make themselves look like more like a man – that they should wear a suit, minimal jewelry, minimal make up, hair pulled back, etc. So while I do not have any one horror story, there’s an accumulation of subtle things that add up.

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