Meet Karen Safrit, Our Awesome Development Associate!
As many of you know, Elemental Music has grown quite a bit as an organization over the past few years. This year, we're thrilled to have a new face joining our administrative team. Meet Karen Safrit, our Development Associate! Karen has a long history with Elemental Music and the arts, and her years of experience as both a performer and a fundraiser make her an invaluable asset to our organization! Check out the interview below and be sure to say hello if you see her at an upcoming event!
EM: We're so excited to have you join Elemental Music's administrative team! Can you tell us a little bit about your history with the organization?
KS: Thank You! I am thrilled to be a part of the Elemental Music family after many years removed from the sweet sounds of earnest, young musicians. Elemental Strings and I go waaaaay back! My son, now a senior in college, fell in love with the cello sometime in 5th grade while learning chamber pieces in the then-very-small program. Dr. Jo inherited the directorship just following his time there, but we knew we’d be back, enjoying the infectious energy with which she infused the group. Our daughter, now a freshman in college, chose to play the viola, and I knew that Elemental Strings (still not EM) would be the perfect place for her to land as a young musician. She and I began a long relationship with Dr. Jo and the program, happy mentoring and happy to pitch in raising money, respectively.
EM: How have the arts played a role in your life?
KS: My family always listened to music at home, which is probably what kindled my love of the performing arts. We did not listen to classical music, however. We listened to Jonny Cash, Willie Nelson, The Beatles, The Carpenters, The Jackson Five.
As I grew, I joined the choir at church and began figure skating. The classical music that my parents never listened to at home was introduced to me via my skating environment. Lots of Tchaikovsky, Ravel, and more became hummable and ubiquitous during my ten years as an “athlete.” Studying dance while figure skating led me to choose dance as something to do as I aged out of school and athletics. Performing contemporary dance around the world was the highlight of my professional dance life and so began the continuing study of everything performance based. Following my performance tenure, I sought an MFA in dance, completed that program, and have been teaching dance and dance related activities to college students and adults. Ultimately friends, life, travel and education gave me an incredible appreciation for all art forms.
EM: I know that you were heavily involved with the SAMOHI Orchestra Parents Association. Can you talk a little bit about that?
KS: I spent seven years serving various needs that the Orchestra Parents Association had, including 3 years co-presiding over the executive board, and a few more in other board positions. I learned an incredible amount about the needs, both fundraising and programmatic, of our Santa Monica community of families. I served as the tour coordinator for three planned Symphony Orchestra tours — two international and one domestic. Offering opportunities like these to the hard-working, talented musicians was challenging work, but incredibly rewarding. The excitement the students showed while leading up to and eventually while traveling satisfied my soul. I think everyone agrees that giving feels good. I felt like I was instrumental (pun intended) in ‘giving’ wonderful children something very wonderful.
EM: Why did you feel compelled, or what drew you back, to Elemental Music?
KS: Sending my children off to college, as many can imagine or have done themselves, began my transition from ‘mom' back to ‘ Karen.’ Among a few other stressful shifts in life, came this easy shift…'serendipitous' is how I describe it. On a random day, Josephine called me up (and since my daughter was still taking lessons from her at the time of the call, I anticipated the call was about her/lessons) and asked if the rumor she heard was true — that I was interested in working in development for a non-profit. She was indeed searching for someone to do that work for Elemental Music. I couldn’t have been more honored to have Josephine’s confidence that I would be the right person for the organization's needs, and so we met, talked, and agreed that we both were excited to work with each other!
I recently spent a little time at an Elemental Music rehearsal, and from my first step into the rehearsal room, I realized that these are the moments that keep me going when it comes to fundraising challenges for an organization like this one. It’s never easy to ask for money, but it’s certainly easy to know why it’s needed. For everyone who makes my job easy, you can be sure I’m grateful. For every contribution you make, I’m on the other end, jumping up and down with excitement…for the children!