This time in our quest to interview some local music folks we had the privilege of talking to Matrisha Armitage, who founded MEPAA, Music Education & Performing Artists Association. Due to a love for music and for people, this nonprofit organization was born in order to bring people in the community together by giving women and kids a unique opportunity to learn and to perform music of all kinds. From this has branched multiple programs such as, GRRRLZ Rock, Kidz Rock, MuseArt, GRRRL Jamz, and last but not least, Rock Orchestra. With her upbeat personality and ready smile and laugh, Matrisha encourages and inspires musicians from all walks of life to do what they love and to love what they do.
Matrisha Armitage(right) poses with Kaitlyn Bailey(left) at a weekly event put on by MuseArt, one of Armitage’s may musical programs.
KB: Would you mind telling us a little bit about yourself and what you do?
My name is Matrisha Armitage and I am the Executive Director & Workshop Coordinator of Music Education & Performing Artists Association, better knows as GRRRLZ ROCK & KIDZ ROCK. By day I am the President of my own bookkeeping and consulting business called Armitage Solutions and producer/manager of my own band, Bajuana Tea that has been performing since high school back in the 90’s.
KB: What Inspired You to Create GRRRLZ Rock and KIDZ Rock and to Pursue this Career Path?”
Being in a band started it all, my husband and I started performing as youth and my day job led me to be passionate for nonprofits serving youth in our community. I volunteered and worked for an at-risk youth services organization that taught me about programming and non-profit administration and then I just managed to combine my passion for music and passion for helping youth into an organization that supports women and youth in music and arts and under-served populations to get to participate in the arts without limitations. GRRRLZ ROCK and KIDZ ROCK were originally purchased by my personal music production company and then transferred over to the umbrella non-profit who began managing them in 2014.
KB: What Challenges Did You Face Getting Your Organization Started?
Learning how to organize a non-profit board team and creating consistent funding was the hardest challenge. Working alone in a for profit company is very different than being a part of a large team that needs to be supported and managed in different ways and took a ton of time and relationship building to get off the ground. The previous manager of the programs we adopted also had their own history in the community and educating everyone on the change of ownership and direction was our first challenge and goal.
What Previous Professional Experiences, Education, or Training Have Helped You Most in This Role? (Was there someone who mentored you?)
I have been in the financial and music production businesses since I was 15 years old, so I had lots of experience doing the fiscal and bookkeeping pieces of the puzzle and having grown up around music and performers, I began working events and doing productions at a fairly young age as well. Working with at-risk youth and young people throughout my professional and volunteering experiences gave me the background of youth support and training on how to properly work with and respect youth issues and rights. All of these skills came together to prepare me for my current position and I continue to take training and development workshops to stay updated. Working directly with youth has been the best training!
What’s something That Would Surprise People about Your Day-to-Day?”
How much time I spend texting and emailing is crazy and how I sleep in later than most people. Folks always say they can’t believe how much I get done in a day between my bookkeeping business and the non-profit activities, but mostly I feel like I haven’t done enough each day because I do enjoy life between activities and sleep in later than most and stay up later than most. Not sure which things would surprise people, but I think they would be surprised how much I enjoy movies and hang out with my bandmate and husband and don’t really rush around every minute of the day the way folks think I do.
KB: How many hours do you work in a typical week?
The non-profit activities take about 25-35 hours per week or more depending on events and what time of year, during a festival I could spend 40-50 hours of work on events because they are so long and time consuming to prepare for and execute. I work my bookkeeping business about 20-25 hours per week at this time and that varies during tax season and other busier times a well. So on average around 55-65 hours or so of productive time working those two jobs.
KB: What’s One Thing You Wish Somebody Would’ve Told You Before jumping Into This Field?
How hard it would be to do constant fundraising, all the other parts seem to come together easy, but keeping everything funded has been surprisingly difficult and I didn’t know how hard that piece would be. And to remember to say “NO” when things aren’t a good fit. I still get so enthusiastic that I agree to do things that are too much work for no compensation and I learn more and more every time I do it.
KB: What Are Some of the Biggest Rewards of Your Position?”
The biggest reward of my position is hearing the feedback from youth about how much we have helped them in their lives and the second biggest is the feeling I get at events that are creating so much joy and community engagement. I feel like I am on top of the world and making a real difference and that is the reward!
KB: How Would You Describe Somebody Who Would Excel in This Career?”
They would need to have a huge capacity for interacting with people on many levels from performers to venues to booking agents to sponsors to foundations, parents, board members, volunteers, staff and community partners. I think that is the biggest quality necessary, good communication and a true enjoyment of interacting and working with a variety of people. The next quality would need to be organizational skills using computers and spreadsheets and software programs to manage all of the details and information gathered and necessary for putting on events and working with the community. Friendly, enthusiastic, supportive and patient, maybe are good ones?
KB: What’s Most Important to Prepare for a Role like Yours? (Such as personality traits and skills you would need?)
Working with social media, Google drive, a business management degree is what I always encourage future producers or organizers to take in school and lots of texting and communication skills. Transferring all of our files over to Google Drive was imperative and being open to new skills as they come up in the social media world is necessary.
KB: What Parts of Your Job do you Find Most Challenging?
Having to ask for funding is the most challenging part of my job, it is hard to be in a position where you really need funds and get frustrated over it while the rest of the job is super exciting and fun! Someday we will hire a fundraising coordinator and I will get to do more of the fun parts, but for now that is one of my duties and I do my best, but wish I was better at it and made more time for it. The second challenge is time management and making sure you are prepared in time for the many deadlines involved in this line of work, advertising deadlines, grant reporting deadlines, workshop and event preparations in time for the actual events. Lots of deadlines to manage and making time for yourself outside of all the activity is very challenging.
KB: Anything else we should know? (Something interesting about running your own business/organization? Story? Fun Fact? )
Build up your team! My business and non-profit teams are what make everything work and happen smoothly. MEPAA could not have grown into what it is now without the efforts of so many volunteers, supporters and community members that have become passionate about the vision of the organization and made it their passion, too! Rachael Young is the most valuable person that ever came into my life in regards to this organization and her skills and dedication took everything to a level I could not have accomplished without her. Support and encourage your team, but let them do what they need to do to help out and take all the help and energy you can get from others that want to be apart of the vision, you cannot do it alone!