United Conservatory of Music - November 2019




CROSSROADS How a Text Brought Us Here

Few people know this, but Thanksgiving is a very important holiday for UCM. In fact, I first came to Fresno because a friend of mine invited me to Thanksgiving dinner.

It was Thanksgiving 2015, and I was spending it alone in my bedroom. I’d done a string of auditions, even making it as a semifinalist for the Baltimore Symphony and a finalist for the Montgomery Symphony Association fellowship, but I hadn’t gotten any of them. I was feeling pretty depressed. That’s when I got a text from my friend: an invitation to come over for Thanksgiving dinner. At that moment, I didn’t want to do anything, so I almost didn’t text her back. Thankfully, I decided to reply after all. We started chatting, I told my friend about what I was going through, and eventually she said, “I know a guy in Fresno who is starting a music school. Let me put you in touch with him.” I didn’t know it at the time, but that text was a fork in the road that changed the entire direction of my life. “Leo had a dream to make a big music school; I wanted to help him make it a reality.” The guy turned out to be Leo Kim, founder of the United Conservatory of Music. After our mutual friend put us in touch, things happened really fast. I’d never actually met Leo before I came to Fresno. I remember waiting for my bags to come in at the airport when I started to feel nervous. What had I done? How could I fly across the country to meet a total stranger? What if he was a creep? That’s when Leo came up beside me and asked if I had my luggage yet. When I saw him, I could tell he was a good guy, and I calmed down. After we left the airport, Leo took me to a bistro for lunch. I ate half a steak sandwich and was caught off guard when Leo insisted I finish the other half before leaving. That’s not howmost people meet their business partner, but it proved to be the start of a great relationship. With Leo’s help, I had 15 music students in the first two weeks.

Leo had a dream to make a big music school; I wanted to help himmake it a reality.

Musicians need structure. As artists, we’re inherently right-brained people, and management is more of a left-brain skill. Musicians turn to symphonies and orchestras for the organization as well as the job security. Most musicians thrive best when they have creative freedom in a structured environment. That’s something I was looking for myself, so it’s what I’ve aimed to create at UCM for our instructors. When our instructors feel secure and creatively fulfilled, and when the staff is able to function like a team, we’re able to give our students the highest quality of care and attention. That’s what led to our tremendous growth over the last three years. As we look to the new year, one of my goals is to have 1,000 students, 50 teachers, and a full office staff by the end of 2020. The United Conservatory of Music is in a position to create a unique musical environment and bring value to Fresno. I’m proud to be part of it. On that lonely Thanksgiving, I had a 50-50 chance of replying to my friend’s text. If I hadn’t, I don’t know where I would be today. There are crossroad moments in life we don’t see until they’re behind us, so it’s important to be open to every opportunity that will keep your life moving forward.

—Christopher Scherer

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