Amy Strickland Kirkland
Degree/Year: B.M. in vocal performance, 2000
Hometown: Los Angeles, California
Current: General Manager of The Broad Stage Performing Arts Center in Santa Monica, California, and a consulting arts educator for Disney, Carnegie Hall, Opera America, and Colburn School.
Bonus fact: Amy was featured in a recent New York Times news story about an educational app she helped to develop for Disney.
How did your Samford degree / experience prepare you for your current work? With a degree in vocal performance, I do still enjoy performing on stage occasionally; however, my Samford education also prepared me to “perform” in a variety of other ways in my career. I learned to approach every performance, presentation or meeting with solid preparation and confidence. I also learned that a great production does not happen by the work of only an individual. Truly great work occurs when there is a spirit of collaboration and respect for others’ ideas and expertise.
What Samford faculty or staff member had the most influence on you and why? All of my professors and fellow students at Samford encouraged me to approach each project with integrity and hard work, but my voice professor, Sherrie Lawhon, was the most influential. She often said that the process is more important than the final product. I still carry that with me, and whether I’m writing a music curriculum, preparing artists for a concert, or practicing for my own performance, I approach every aspect of the work with rigor and a dedication to excellence. She also reminded me that life is about the journey, not the end destination. Every day we have an opportunity to learn, to grow, and to make a positive impact on those around us.
Why are you so committed to arts education? I am always inspired when I see someone whose life has been impacted in a positive way because of an artistic or creative experience. Whether that experience simply puts a smile on your face or transforms the way you see the world and those around you, it's those moments that inspire me to continue my work. I also think that encouraging exploration through the arts is key to raising creative kids. Exploration means being open to new ideas, using your imagination, learning to solve problems creatively, and understanding the world around us from different perspectives. All of these skills are vital for success, not only in careers but also as citizens of the world.
What is the best advice you ever were given and by whom? I have amazing parents (also Samford graduates) who always encouraged me to explore, to try new things, to be creative, to persevere and to treat every experience as an opportunity to learn. My father always told me "in everything you do - touch a life and be a light." He encouraged me to pursue my passions and foster my creative talents, but also to use those gifts for helping to inspire others.
You’ve worked in some of the greatest performance venues in the world and now with a college. What is your favorite experience, so far? It’s so hard to choose a favorite. Every experience has been unique and has taught me so much. I will say that working at Carnegie Hall was an incredible experience. Through my work there, I had the privilege to collaborate with some of the leading musicians and arts educators in the field. I feel extremely blessed to have been surrounded by so many talented people who also have a heart for transforming lives through music. I’m also thrilled that I still get to collaborate with my colleagues there, as we are now sharing some Carnegie Hall’s education programs at The Broad Stage.
ABOUT SAMFORD UNIVERSITY -- Samford University is a premier nationally ranked private university deeply rooted in its Christian mission. Founded in 1841, Samford is the 87th oldest institution of higher education in the United States. U.S. News & World Report ranks Samford 3rd among regional universities in the South. Samford enrolls 5,509 students from 45 states, the District of Columbia and 29 other countries in its 10 academic units: arts, arts and sciences, business, divinity, education, health professions, law, nursing, pharmacy, and public health. Samford also fields 17 NCAA Division I teams that compete in the tradition-rich Southern Conference.