Today we’d like to introduce you to Megan Carfa.
Hi Megan, so excited to have you on the platform. So before we get into questions about your work-life, maybe you can bring our readers up to speed on your story and how you got to where you are today?
I come from a family of musicians, so I’ve been participating in music and band pretty much my entire life. My dad is a professional bass player so I was always listening to him teach lessons or going to his concerts but honestly, a lot of it came from me wanting to copy my older brothers. So I started piano when I was in 2nd grade, I did choir from elementary through middle school, played violin in 5th grade – all before finding my place playing the trumpet in 6th grade through today!
Being in band taught me about commitment, dedication, and hard work more than any other activity I’ve participated in, but it also helped me grow my confidence and gave me the ability to follow my passions, which is exactly what I did. My entire college career was influenced by my love for music and gave me the confidence to follow my passion. I originally began attending the University of North Texas studying Elementary Education, knowing I still wanted to participate in the Green Brigade Marching Band.
Being surrounded by all of the music majors who were passionate about the same things as I am brought back that sense of home and gave me the clarity and confidence to switch tracks to Music Education where I got to live my dream spending every day studying what I loved. Thanks to my music background and time in marching band, I am an incredibly fast learner and highly adept at multi-tasking, which has really come in handy working as the Operations and Development Director at Junior Players, where a staff of 6 is working to provide high-quality programming for over 15,000 North Texas youth annually.
I was very lucky to come from a family that supports and appreciates the arts, which meant that I was supported when I was trying to figure out which art form I wanted to participate in. I never had to worry about buying an instrument or paying my band dues. Not all kids are that lucky, which is why Junior Players is so important to me and to our community. We work incredibly hard to make sure that all students have access to free programs so they can pursue their passions and aren’t inhibited by the restraints of affording dues and supplies. Junior Players spends every day working hard to narrow that opportunity gap and ensure young artists today aren’t kept from pursuing what makes them happy. No dream should come with a price tag.
Can you talk to us a bit about the challenges and lessons you’ve learned along the way. Looking back would you say it’s been easy or smooth in retrospect?
I graduated from the University of North Texas with a Bachelor of Music Education and my passion for music and arts led to starting my professional career as a Ticketmaster Event Support Specialist with Live Nation Entertainment. From there I moved onto a job as a Development Coordinator of Individual Gifts for the nonprofit AT&T Performing Arts Center before finally accepting a job at Junior Players and growing into the position of Operations and Development Director that I hold currently. The biggest challenge throughout all of that actually occurred before I even began my journey through arts administration. I went to UNT to get a degree in Music Education and become a music educator.
However, during my time there, I began to realize that was not what I wanted to do. This was undoubtedly the most difficult decision I have had to make throughout my professional career, after all, I had just spent 5 years of my life and money learning to be a band director. Finally admitting that that was not what I wanted to do felt like I was letting down my professors, student teaching cooperating supervisors, friends, family, and really everyone who had been with me through my educational career. I always knew I wanted to be involved in the arts, but admitting to myself and everyone around me that the path I had already chosen wasn’t what I wanted to pursue and starting fresh was an incredibly difficult decision. I think the biggest lesson actually draws a lot from that experience! If I were giving advice to others, the largest piece of advice I would give would be to be honest with yourself and what you want out of your job and life.
If you find yourself on a path you realize is not right for you, be honest and brave and go after what you want instead! Really taking an introspective look at yourself and what makes you happy will also help you realize if you are happy or just comfortable. For me, personally, I know I am happier in a field where I am challenged and where I can continually grow – so just because I am good at a certain job, does not mean it is where I am going to be the happiest. I think that is a really important skill to learn how to look at yourself in that way. Finally, I want the world to know how important it is do continue doing what you love, even if it isn’t your profession! I love music – it has been a huge part of my life and just because it isn’t my profession, doesn’t mean I have to give it up.
I currently play with the Carrollton Wind Symphony trumpet section and have a great time making music with other professionals! Everyone needs to have a safe space to continue pursuing or participating in the things they love.
Alright, so let’s switch gears a bit and talk business. What should we know about your work?
I am the Operations and Development Director at Junior Players, which is a nonprofit that provides free arts education programs to over 15,000 kids and teens annually. My role at Junior Players is twofold – the Operations side where I manage the office finances, payroll, managing our bills, and things of that nature, and then the Development side, where I oversee individual and institutional giving. If you boil it down to its core, it’s really all about doing whatever needs to be done to ensure that we have the resources we need to best serve the children and youth in our community and beyond – I make sure that Junior Players has the funding we need in order to provide high-quality arts education programming to over 15,000 North Texas youth annually for absolutely no cost to our participants.
I love working at Junior Players because it’s an incredible organization that gives kids opportunities they otherwise may not have had. One of the things that make Junior Players so unique is our focus on both quality and accessibility for our kids, so we have these high-quality arts programs and we’re providing them to kids and teens who otherwise would not have had access to the arts and we do it for no cost to the participant.
I remember the very first grant I received when I began at Junior Players was to expand our dance residency program – so a grant I wrote expanded our dance residency from 1 program to 11 programs, and the fact that hundreds more students were able to participate and experience that program really made me feel the impact of my work and holds a special place in my heart, but if I really had to pick what I am most proud of it would have to be the expansion we have been able to achieve. We doubled our reach from 7,000 to 15,000 in 2016 and we continue to grow more and more every year.
We have been able to find funding for new and innovative programs like our Broadcast Journalism JPTV program and our brand new Graphic Design program. Reaching more students and being able to introduce a new and varied collection of free arts education experiences to them is both what I am most proud of and what sets Junior Players apart from others.
We all have a different way of looking at and defining success. How do you define success?
That’s tricky because, of course, as a growing organization we have quantitative goals, number based objectives that we want to hit in order to continue growing and expanding, and of course those are all very important, but really when we look at if a year or a production or a program was successful or not, it doesn’t boil down to the numbers. What really matters is were we able to positively impact our participants? Did our programming change a life or open new doors to the youth in our community? I think success is when you feel you have done your best and have made a difference, and that can be in just one person or just one kid, and that’s a success. If we have a program and just one participant leaves having had fun or having learned something new or having more self-confidence, it was a success.
- Website: www.juniorplayers.org