You’ve read about some impressive women in rock, rap, and throughout the music industry; this week, you’ll get to learn more about two women in our very own organization. Junior Erika Swinney is the current vice-president of management for Limelight Records and works closely with her right-hand-woman, first-year Taylor Stephens.
As VP of management, Erika checks in with the managers of each artist team, works with the other members of the executive team, and serves office hours during which Limelight members can talk to her, amongst many other duties. When she isn’t networking or managing an artist, Erika completes her education as a design and production major. Though in high school she started out on track to major in music, Erika found management by executing an independent study with a teacher of hers. They learned about how plays are translated to the stage, and eventually Erika began attending a stagecraft class in her free time. During stagecraft one day, Erika interviewed a friend of hers. As she interviewed him, he asked her to hand him a wrench and said, “You know, you can do this, too.” So, Erika’s passion for technical theatre subtly began to ignite. She served as the stage manager for the musical Hair during her senior year of high school while also playing Hudd. “It was evident from day one that I was going to be the head of the team. I was the right hand man already,” she explains of working on the production team. Throughout her first year at Elon University, Erika started making connections in the technical theatre world and found her way to stage management. By the time fall of her sophomore year came around, Erika was stage managing dance showcases already.
Around this time, Erika found Limelight Records at the organization fair and soon began managing one of Limelight’s artists, ADzman. Erika emphasized the efficiency of her team: “I was blessed enough to have a really good team who also wanted to work with Adam.” If anything were to go wrong, Erika knew that her teammates would be there to help her fix it quickly and effectively. More generally, Erika advises, “you need to figure out who is important in life and who belongs on your team and who can help you grow, and if there’s someone who’s toxic on your team, they gotta go before they drag down the team.” She carries these principles with her into her current role at Limelight.
Taylor Stephens had a similar start in management, working her way through high school arts programs to find Limelight. Even in her freshman year of high school, Taylor served on her high school choir’s management team, designing their annual spring show and arranging repertoire. As time went on, Taylor moved up and became vice-president of the choir department her junior year and the president her senior year. As president, she was in charge of creating an idea for their spring show and delegating tasks to others to ensure that costuming, lighting, and sound were all appropriate and artistic.
Now, Taylor Stephens manages Hannah Strickland, one of Limelight’s acoustic artists. This Halloween, Hannah Strickland performed at the Mission for a sorority event. Taylor explained that there was a technical issue with the speakers, and her proudest moment as a manager for Limelight thus far was being able to connect with the right people – in this case, Limelight’s VP of production, Andres Garreaud – to learn how to remedy the issue so as not to impede on Hannah’s performance.
When asked about how gender interacts with her work, Taylor acknowledges that in many industries, there are fewer women with high executive positions. As such, Taylor points our that “there’s a high work ethic” amongst women in her experience, and that women tend to “have to be more competitive.” Indeed, this is true, especially the higher up one looks in a particular organization. Taylor encourages women interested in management to pursue that goals because her experiences communicating with others, focusing on time management, learning to stay highly organized, and more have set her up advantageously for a career in really any field. “Don’t work so hard that you burn yourself out,” Taylor warns, “but work hard enough that you get it done effectively.”
Erika was disinterested in how gender interacts with her work: “I have just looked at myself and where I want to go. I don’t like, label myself. I’m Erika.” Clearly, Erika keeps her focus internal. “I want you to know about me, not what my gender is.” For sure, I think Erika makes an excellent point in that who you are will always supercede what you are.
Next time you attend a Limelight event, be sure to keep an eye out for the managers working the crowd and leading their teams. Be sure to thank them – as long as you don’t interrupt their workflow, for they are some fierce leaders.