Michelle Edgar is just…AWESOME. Meeting Michelle was one of those things that was meant to happen — several of our mutual friends insisted that we get together, and as soon as I met her I understood why. I passionately believe that now, more than ever, public schools should continue to allocate funding to music and arts departments in order to create an expressive outlet for students. After all, music brings people together, allows voices to be heard, and increases self-esteem and productivity.
Michelle not only believed in this vision, but she actually created an entire foundation that brings music education to underprivileged schools and “works towards transforming inner-city landscapes by empowering urban youth through music.” And on top of being the founder of Music Unites, Michelle has one heck of a witty, spunky, and go-getter personality, with an absolutely contagious laugh to match.
Michelle Edgar Q+A:
Julia: You’ve got a tangible drive that creates this sort of electric I-can-do-anything-I-set-my-mind-to attitude. Where does that come from?
Michelle: For me everything stems from passion and vision. It takes a certain drive to accomplish what I’ve achieved, yet along the way, there were sacrifices that needed to be made. If you’re blessed with a greater mission and there’s a calling involved…that to me is a gift and it’s your obligation to fulfill it.
I attribute a lot of my discipline that I learned over the years to my music – being trained as a concert pianist took a certain level of focus, prioritization and organization (along with lots of practice) to be able to go on stage and perform for an hour.
Julia: What were you doing before you decided to start your own nonprofit?
Michelle: I was a writer/editor at Women’s Wear Daily and felt that my love for music was missing from my life. One evening, I was watching one of my favorite shows (60 Minutes) and learned about an organization called El Sistema. I was so inspired and moved that I wanted to create a similar music educational program for under-served kids here in our country so that all students could have the opportunity to learn music and develop their talents. Speaking on behalf of my own childhood, this is something that I believe really empowered and shaped me – and was instrumental in my development process, which also helped shape my success.
Julia: I’ve learned that starting a charity, nonprofit, or organization of any sort is a massive undertaking. What helped you keep focused on your mission?
Michelle: My students. I have personally mentored my students including several that have advanced to higher education in music. My biggest joy is when I can open a student’s mind and teach them about the music business and the endless opportunities out there…when I can watch their talent and personal confidence unfold before my eyes…when I see how the power of music and the teachers they work impacts their daily student lives.
Secondly, my incredible volunteer team of dedicated and passionate leaders who helped see my vision through.
And of course, my friends and family who stood by me and encouraged me during the crazy times! I’ll never forget when I called my parents during the first month to tell them how I committed a significant amount of money to start an all city choir. Although they were hesitant, they encouraged me to go for it. I’ve learned a lot from my parents along the way, through both my father’s strong business acumen and my Mom’s social and people skills and power of influence.
Michelle: Music is my life – i discovered my love for it at the age of 5 when I first sat down on the piano. I am blessed to be in a business I love and feel that it truly is the universal language that unites and brings people together. I’m excited to continue contributing to my business and igniting change. My passion stems from working with amazing creatives and artists who are true visionaries.
Julia: What’s next for you?
Michelle: Social change and moving culture! That’s my mantra and what I live by. I look up to creative visionaries like Russell Simmons, Tony Hsieh and my current boss Alex da Kid – what we are doing is incredibly exciting and I feel fortunate and blessed to be at the forefront in helping him build his business. And for Music Unites, several of the students now work and volunteer for the Music Unites team. It’s my dream to one day bring them on full time to run it completely. It truly is the gift that keeps giving.