Leadership Interview with Founder of SAFE through the Arts
I am Kristen Marlene Amrhein from the Growing Azalea Music team. I work as the Oﬃce Manager/Director of Licensing and Publishing. I am currently a senior at Hartwick College in Oneonta, NY. I am taking a course on Leadership. We are learning the diﬀerent styles of leadership, qualities, traits, weaknesses, and strengths of a leader. My professor assigned us a project in which we had to interview someone who we think is a great leader. I thought Margaret Bernstein would be the perfect person to interview for this project. I got to know Margaret a little better. Down below are some of the questions I asked her:
K: What is your deﬁnition of leadership?
M: My deﬁnition of a leader is someone who guides and inspires others.
K: What is your leadership philosophy?
M: My philosophy of leadership is to use one’s personal inner strength and wisdom as well as the power within his/her role of leadership in order to empower others.
K. How did you learn to lead?
M. As with everything else in my life, I learned how to lead by doing it. I began organizing community events when I was nine years old beginning with a carnival at my house in order to raise money for Cerebral Palsey and then continuing with a series of events to raise money for UNICEF when I was ﬁfteen and a town-wide bike-a thon for March of Dimes when I was seventeen.
K. Looking back at your early years, what inﬂuenced you
M. I grew up literally surrounded by strong and creative people. My parents were both dancers and dance teachers and deﬁnitely had a strong eﬀect on my life including the fact that they made sure I had private music lessons from an early age. The mother of the friends who lived across the street from me was an English professor and was responsible for editing our street newspaper (The “Willow Rag”) to which we all contributed at an early age. I also attended the Waldorf School in Garden City where students are trained to become individual and creative thinkers and doers.
K. What events and individuals have had the greatest impact?
M. In addition to my parents (My father was the chairman of the dance department at Adelphi University and my mother had been a soloist with the Royal Ballet in London), there were three very strong women who had the greatest inﬂuence on my life. These were my Great Aunt, Katerina Forbes Dunlop, who was headmistress of the oldest girls’ boarding school in England and who tutored privately until she was ninety-seven years old; My Godmother, Margaret Craske, who taught both my parents ballet and who taught ballet in New York City until she was ninety-four years old; and my Nana, Catherine Furey, who taught me to stand on my own feet and also pray at an early age and who lived to be one hundred and ten years old. What these three incredible women had in common was compassion, dedication, tenacity and rock solid Faith.
K. Where did you grow up?
M. I grew up in Garden City, Long Island, a suburb of New York City.
K. What is your current position?
M. I am currently the founder and owner of Growing Azalea Music productions, an independent music publishing, record label and production company specializing in “Socially Awakened Songs and Uplifting Instrumentals”. I am also the Founder and Director of Azalea Blossom, Incorporated, a 501(c)3 non proﬁt organization dedicated to the awareness, prevention and education of domestic, social and child abuse and the SAFE through the arts bullying prevention program.
K. What is your educational background?
M. I have a Bachelors of Music degree in Flute Performance from Oberlin Conservatory of Music in Ohio and a Masters of Music in Flute Performance, which I obtained through a full tuition merit scholarship, from Arizona State University. I also took educational courses at Russell Sage College in Troy, New York and hold two New York State teachers’ certiﬁcations- one in music (N-12, instrumental and vocal) and one in Prek-6 multi-subject education. I also studied at the Manhattan School of Music PreCollege program for three years during high school in addition to my regular academic high school.
K. What other experiences helped qualify you for your current role?
M. Growing up as an only surviving child, I learned from an early age to rely on myself and forge my own way. I started my own record label and founded an international week-long positive peer support retreat for teenagers when I was still in my twenties. I was trained to use my creativity to problem solve and have always been used to creating my own path.
K. Why do you feel inspired to be in a leadership role?
M. It is important to me to rise up to my highest self and use my fullest potential in order to help others. My goal is always to use my strengths and talents in order to help others. I always strive to bring people together in order to make a positive impact in the world.
K. What do you feel are the most important qualities that a leader must posses?
M. I believe that it is imperative for true leaders to possess compassion and humility. A good leader must also have a clear vision with relevant experience and some practical knowledge of how to achieve that vision. It is also important for a leader to be accepting and embrace diﬀerences and have an open mind to new ideas. A true leader must learn the importance of balance, both in ones personal and professional life in order to be able to aﬀective in leadership.
K. How do you ensure that your team is moving forward in the same direction?
M. Communication is key. It is vital that everyone is on the same page. Motivation and mutual respect are also key factors. When team members feel motivated as well as respected and valued, it is easier to move forward as a team.
K. When were you dissatisﬁed with your leadership?
M. Whenever there seems to be a breakdown in communication and a lack of motivation for whatever reason by team members, it can be easy to feel discouraged. Whenever this happens, I realize that it is time to try a new approach and ﬁnd ways to galvanize team spirit again.
K. In what situation did you ﬁnd the greatest fulﬁllment?
M. A team is like a wheel with the spokes being the members of the team. A team is as strong as its spokes. When everyone is working together on a project and achieving success, it is incredibly satisfying, especially when everyone is taking pride in their accomplishments and being a part of the team. One example of this is when my team and I were working on producing a CD, Songs from SAFE through the arts. In a very short time, we had the CD completed, distributed and submitted for a Grammy nomination. We could not have done this without everyone on the team doing their part and taking pride on being on a winning team.
K. What advice can you oﬀer for other aspiring leaders?
M. It is important for aspiring leaders to trust their own intuition and follow their own voice and dreams. People will try to persuade you to do this or that but only you know what your true calling is and what potentials lie within you. With that being said, it is equally important that aspiring leaders educate themselves and learn from other leaders. Be willing to experience new things and make mistakes. Celebrate every success along the way. Learn time management and good communication skills. Be grateful and humble always. Last bit not least, remember to breathe, laugh and drink plenty of water!