Monthly Archives: October 2009

A convention center of one’s own–by guest blogger Judy Neufeld

I remember my very first time at the Massachusetts Conference for Women. It was December of 2005.  I was a recent college graduate in need of a job and sorely missing the support network of being a student. I was unsure what the conference would be like and what the day would bring, but as I walked into the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center that early and chilly Thursday morning, I felt optimistic that I may get some leads on job opportunities and was excited to attend the workshops and panels. What I actually got that day was so much more than just some business cards.

I remember walking in to the Convention Center and being surrounded by thousands of other women. These were women who were eager to learn and grow personally and professionally; women who were eager to mentor and support the younger generation in the crowd; women who wanted to reach out and connect with others. What I got that day at the first Conference was a new network beyond my friends from college; I got a network of other women who wanted to see me succeed, to help me grow personally and professionally.

Now in its fifth year, the Massachusetts Conference for Women remains a space where women gather to connect with each other, motivate and inspire others, and build their personal and professional skills. It is a space where over 4,500 women gather annually to hear from speakers like Suze Orman, personal finance expert and bestselling author; Ruth Simmons, president of Brown University; and Susan Taylor, editor emerita of Essence magazine and founder of the National Cares Mentoring Movement.

Every year, I look forward to the Massachusetts Conference for Women. I always leave the Convention Center feeling refreshed, energized, and inspired to do more. Women need more opportunities to connect with each other and we all need to ensure that we are taking responsibility for mentoring the next generation of young women leaders. In fact, Big Sister Association of Greater Boston has a booth at the conference where women attendees can learn about our mentoring opportunities to ensure that we are all doing our part to encourage, inspire, and support the next generation of young women.  I’m excited that for the third year in a row I will be attending the Conference as a representative of Big Sister Association!

But why should we wait until the Massachusetts Conference of Women to encourage, inspire, and support another woman? Why does it take a space exclusively dedicated to women to help us reflect on our personal and professional goals? What if every day you felt supported and empowered, and in turn helped to instill confidence in a younger woman or girl? Isn’t that what being a mentor is all about?

I hope you’ll leave your comments on this and also join me and Big Sister Association at the Massachusetts Conference for Women on December 10!

All That Jazz: Grace Kelly to Perform at Big in Boston

Grace Kelly performs National Anthem at 2009 NBA Playoff Game between the World Champion Boston Celtics and The Orlando Magic.

“Grace Kelly plays with intelligence, wit and feeling.  She has a great amount of natural ability and the ability to adapt that is the hallmark of a first-class jazz musician.” -Wynton Marsalis

She’s recorded more albums than Miley Cyrus.  She plays more instruments than Taylor Swift.  She’s performed with more legends in her musical genre than Britney Spears, but she won’t be starring in the next Disney movie, appearing on lunch boxes, or lending her name to the latest department store clothing line.  She’s Grace Kelly, and she is amazing.

On November 12, Grace, the Brookline-based jazz sensation, will be performing at Big Sister Association’s signature event, Big in Boston, held at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum.  Not only will she fill the room with musical talent well beyond her years, she will also represent what is at the core of Big Sister’s mission:  when someone is there to believe in you and support you, there is no limit to what you can do, become, or achieve.

Grace first picked up a saxophone at the age of 10, and hasn’t put it down since.  She became the youngest student ever to complete the four-year Jazz Studies Certificate Program at New England Conservatory Prep School.  At age 15, Grace was offered a full scholarship to attend Berklee College of Music. She finished her high school requirements and entered Berklee College at age sixteen.  She is currently in her sophomore year.

Says Grace of the musical mentors that have helped her on a path to success:  I have been very lucky throughout my career in music to have many wonderful mentors.  Jazz greats such as Lee Konitz, Frank Morgan, Phil Woods and Wynton Marsalis have taken me under their wing and had me perform with them.  However, when I first started in music there was one person in particular who was a significant mentor to me.  My elementary music teacher Ken Berman was the first one to discover my talent and help nurture it.  When I was in kindergarten he heard me sing and immediately recognized it as real talent.  Ken is also a great jazz pianist and wonderful musician.  He was the one who stayed after school to work on songs with me, encouraged me to do my first solo performance at school, and later emboldened me to record my first CD at age 12.  We all know it’s important to have support from your family and friends, and that of course means a lot, but to have a professional musician who mentors you is irreplaceable.  Mr. Berman challenged me, supported me, and believed in me so much.  He watched me grow musically and was there throughout the years to help me out.  He helped me find my passion and for that I will be forever thankful.

Now just seventeen, Grace has already recorded and performed with many notable musicians including Dave Brubeck, Hank Jones, Wynton Marsalis, Harry Connick, Jr., Lee Konitz, Phil Woods, Kenny Barron, Piano Jazz with Marian McPartland, Dianne Reeves, James Cotton, and the Boston Pops, among others.  She has recorded five CDs and performed around the world.

What makes her a great role model for the girls we serve—and girls everywhere—who want to have a career in music is that she has not had a meteoric rise to fame, though she could have gone that route.  Today’s girls are inundated with images of instant fame:  the tween set who become their own brand before they’re even old enough to drive, the American Idol hopefuls who need only endure Simon Cowell’s grueling remarks to make it into the national spotlight.  Instead, she is taking her time to arrive at the stardom for which she is destined.  While Grace’s reputation as an extraordinary musician is growing, she continues to study her craft and to explore new areas of music.  Not only is she an accomplished saxophonist, she is also a singer, songwriter, composer, and arranger.  She plays the alto saxophone, soprano saxophone, tenor saxophone, piano, clarinet, flute, drums, and bass. In addition to jazz, she embraces blues, funk, rock and contemporary styles.

We look forward to not only hearing Grace’s inspiring music on November, 12, but also her thoughts on the power of mentoring in helping girls follow their dreams.

Click here to learn more about Grace and Big in Boston.