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Purpose, Passion and Path

Women in the arts will help you find yours

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Charissa Gransden

Director of Lower School Bands, Assistant Director of Fine Arts, The Lovett School

I have been honored to work in the arts for 25 years, teaching young musicians. My goal has always been to inspire, build confidence, and instill life lessons in the eager and impressionable hearts and minds of my students. Many of them, like you, will find the arts to feel like home. I encourage you to let this home be your safe place, where you are free to create and innovate. Find your village; the people who will lift and guide you, support and believe in you, call you out when necessary, and challenge you to be your best. Remind yourself daily how much your creativity and passion play an influential role in your happiness as well as that of others. Value your time and efforts because they can change lives. Really listen to people when they speak because you will learn to hear between the lines and see inside their hearts. Stand tall and enjoy your journey.

Gina Perregrino

Mezzo soprano, Atlanta Opera

Be willing to take stock and reassess yourself often. There are unimaginable synchronicities awaiting you when you shed your skin. You will painfully, messily, and beautifully grow to be the purest, most authentic version of yourself. As artists, we make it our mission to be a mirror for the world, but the moment we are afraid to turn that mirror on ourselves, we are being hypocritical. Do not be compliant. Being compliant without uncomfortably excavating your own path only prolongs toxic cycles in the arts. The outdated notion of what opera “looks like” is finally starting to crumble because a global pandemic forced artists to reexamine the business. I realize that I can thrive in being my own version of an opera singer. As a woman, I can be openly queer, have tattoos and body hair, and talk about imposter syndrome. You don’t have to wear ballgowns out of expectation or feign being self-assured all the time. I used to tell aspiring professional musicians, “if you think you can do anything else, do it.” Now I believe the opposite: “if you think you can do anything else, good.” You should have other pleasures outside of your career—life is full of them! If you aspire to be a musician and think you would also find joy in being a gardener, or a lawyer, or a mother, good—you’ll make a brilliant musician.

Debra Gold

Director, Atlanta Contemporary Jewelry Show, art educator, studio artist and gallerist

Recipe for success in the arts:

Hone your own unique, creative vision and keep it clearly in sight as you plot your career. Know that you have something special to say with your art. Others will gravitate to your positivity. Compare yourself only to your previous self, not to others!

Own your failures AND, more importantly, own your successes.

Experience is always the best teacher.

Break down bigger jobs into workable tasks — even little baby steps add up.Trust yourself to solve problems, but bring others along if you need help. Find balance between what you do and who you are.

Save time for family and friends. They’re the ones who always have your back.It’s crucial to find your creative community. Being a working artist can be so isolating. Give your time and expertise to those communities and you’ll find reward many times over.

Stir well and bake for years…

Jennifer Barlament 
Executive Director, Atlanta Symphony Orchestra 

For me, it comes down to three P’s: purpose, passion and path.

First, be clear about your purpose: You will be spending literally your life—or at least most of your waking hours over many years—working, and your life is priceless, so make your career something that will be fulfilling, joyful and meaningful. 

Second, follow your passion. While I was in college, I was headed for a career that made logical sense, but my heart was in music. Once I gave myself permission to pursue my passion, I’ve never looked back. When you’re passionate about your work, you will work hard, have fun and be successful. 

Third, be open to where the path may lead. It’s only in retrospect that my path has become clear—how decisions and opportunities have added up to where and who I am now. 

One last thing: BE BOLD and shoot for the top! 

Meg Mario, Atlanta Opera

At 39 years old, I thought I’d know so much more by now. But really, all I know is that change is the only constant, so we can waste time longing for the before times, or we can get on board and go on an adventure. Change brings growth and pain, all of it necessary to be our most realized version of ourselves, and fully IN the present. Be honest, lean into your strengths and work to minimize your weaknesses. Be prepared, flexible, ready to share, collaborate and pivot at a moment’s notice. 


When I'm Carmen, I know that the only way to truly be free is to be my most authentic self, fully engaged in the present. The cards are sincere, and they don’t lie. They fall the way they do, no matter what, and we can’t stop them. They’re always being dealt. Be you unapologetically. Carmen lives and dies in a state of freedom and authenticity. I’m learning a lot from her in that regard.

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