The WiMN’s Front and Center is a weekly column that showcases accomplished women who work in the music and audio industries. We spotlight successful female performers, manufacturers, retailers, educators, managers, publicists, and everyone else in between. Want to be featured? Learn how here.

Front and Center: Monique L’Etoile, Director of Sales Programs, Music & Arts

By Laura B Whitmore 

Monique L’Etoile is the Director of Sales Programs for the national retail chain Music & Arts. With over 150 stores across the country, you can bet that keeps her busy! Monique began as a part-time teacher and over decades worked her way to her current leadership position.

Currently a 32-year employee, Monique also has a BA in Music, Piano Performance and plays mallet percussion with a local brass band. She is the mother of 3 young adults and 1 rambunctious dog and is an avid hiker.

Here Monique shares some insight into the challenges and rewards of her demanding career.

WiMN: Explain your role with Music & Arts and how it has changed over the 32 years you’ve been there.

ML: I was a grad student at the University in MD when I found Music & Arts completely by chance, answering an ad for a piano teacher that was posted on the Job Placement Office’s bulletin board. I joined the company in 1985 as a piano instructor. At the time, M&A was a small local business, with about a dozen stores in MD and Northern VA. Two years later, after realizing that I needed a more reliable income, I began working as a part-time and then full-time sales associate. From there I moved on to manage our then flagship location in Ellicott City, MD.

As I’ve grown with the company, I managed several of the retail stores, moved up into a District Manager role, and then held the role of Director of Training and Development. In 2005, when M&A was acquired by Guitar Center, I took on my current role of Director of Sales Programs. In this role, I oversee the operations of the sales force, and I’m heavily involved in the development, testing, training, and implementation of processes and procedures for the sales channels of the business.

WiMN: What has surprised you about working with Music & Arts, and how has your career evolved in unexpected ways?

ML: The biggest surprise for me is how a seemingly small decision to take a teaching position in 1985 led me to a 30+ year career in a field and with a company that I love. Although I couldn’t always predict what my career progression would be, I worked hard in each position I held and clearly communicated my desire to take on more challenges, grow with the company, and move into new roles. 

WiMN: You are a musician and have a BA in Music, how has that helped in your role with Music & Arts?

ML: Initially, having a BA in Music got me in the door with Music & Arts. In my earlier days, it contributed to my success in the stores as I had the basic knowledge of music and instruments to be the ‘expert’ for our customers. I understood their needs and was able to guide them in their musical journey. I feel that the college experience is fundamental to developing discipline and worth ethic. Having achieved that milestone is a significant step in the growth and development of any young adult, regardless of which career path they choose. For me personally, this contributed to my success in the stores, which ultimately helped to propel me further up the corporate ladder.

WiMN: What is a typical day on the job like for you?

ML: Because I am involved in all of the operations that affect the sales teams, I spend a lot of time in meetings with various departments. These can be work sessions for new initiatives, project updates/reviews, planning sessions, testing of new processes and systems, and training & development. I check in regularly and work closely with the support and operations managers that report to me, to ensure we are all on track, and working towards the common goals. 

WiMN: What do you enjoy the most about your job?

ML: I enjoy the variety of working on multiple projects, the collaboration within the teams, and the fact that I’m always learning. I enjoy working on projects and developing processes that support our folks in the stores and those working with educators in schools. I take pride in being a resource when someone needs help. I especially enjoy watching others learn and grown and helping them to be successful in their careers.

WiMN: What have you found to be one of your biggest challenges?

ML: There have certainly been a lot of challenges. Definitely, finding the healthy balance between home life and work life has been the most challenging.

WiMN: You’re a mom and you find time to fit performing into your busy life. How do you make it all fit together?

ML: I’ve learned a few things over the years. The most critical is to take care of you first. Eat well, exercise, sleep! You can take on so much more when you are healthy and rested.  Performing with a local brass band falls into the “make time for you” category. It’s not always easy to make this time, but it’s so very worth it.

WiMN: I often get asked about being a mom in the music industry. Do you have advice to readers who are concerned about that challenge?

ML: It’s important to realize that you can’t be everything to everyone all of the time. You have to be extremely organized and disciplined to be able to successfully manage a career and a family. Sometimes, family has to take priority and work has to wait. And sometimes it’s the other way around – work is a priority and the family has to be patient. There can be long days, late nights and weekends, too. When you’re at work, focus on work. When you’re with your children, give them all you’ve got. It comes down to how bad do you want it and how hard are you willing to work for it. You get out of it what you put into it.

WiMN: What makes Music & Arts unique and is there anything you’d like to share about their philosophy?

ML: M&A has evolved into the nation’s leader in instrument rentals and music lessons, with stores, educational representatives and affiliate locations across the country. Even though we are now a large company, our stores still have that hometown feel.  Our employees are almost always musicians. Many are involved in their communities; playing in local bands, teaching music, working with schools and church programs. We are passionate about music and music education, and that transcends our customer interactions and the customer experience. You can’t buy that online, and you can’t compete with that.     

WiMN: Anything else you’d like to add?

ML: I feel extremely grateful that I have had the opportunity to learn, grow and contribute to a company that supports musicians and school music programs.