Staff Profile: Carolyn Gauthier
Carolyn Gauthier, Vice President of Programs, recently sat down with Heidi James, Vice President of Development, to talk about her twenty-year career with Bread & Roses Presents and over forty years as a volunteer performer.
Q. How did you first hear about and become involved with Bread & Roses Presents?
A. I first heard about Bread & Roses when I was part of The Lighthouse Singers, an all white choir with a repertoire of black gospel music. The choir had many opportunities to act as a bridge between diverse communities, including participating in many national conventions of the Gospel Music Workshop of America. We were honored to be the first Caucasian choir to perform at a convention in Atlanta, Georgia in 1984.
Over thirty years ago, The Lighthouse Singers did a show for Bread & Roses at The Redwoods in Mill Valley. It was a transformative moment for me while I was singing to feel what it must be like for that audience to experience the power of music as they connected with us on a soul level. They were so appreciative of these “young people” giving their time and their hearts to bring them joy! This performance was a gift to them and to all of us in the choir. I knew that this was a sacred moment for both the audience and the artists.
Q. How did you happen to get hired in 1999?
A. One of my friends from The Lighthouse Singers, Michael Morf, was on the Board at Bread & Roses at the time. He recommended me to our founder, the late Mimi Fariña, who brought me on as a producer. In 2007, I became the Program Director and in 2015, Vice President of Programs.
Q. I understand you were a teacher for some years before you came to Bread & Roses. How is that background useful for your work?
A. I taught elementary school for many years in Novato and have a B.A. in Education from Dominican College in San Rafael. As a teacher, I saw how each student had different styles and ways to make connections in order to learn. This knowledge applies to all relationships. With our clients, we see that music moves people in different ways. When I book a show at a particular facility, I keep in mind what would make a good match between the performer and the audience. In this way, we deepen the effect that our programs have.
Q. How has your background as a singer/musician influenced your work at Bread & Roses?
A. My father was a professor of music, and my mother was a singer and piano player. For my whole life I have been singing in choirs, bands and as a solo artist. I recorded a CD of original inspirational music in 2013. The power of music can be meaningful on so many levels - emotionally, spiritually, psychologically and physically. I love to see our audiences moving or dancing to the songs. Knowing how music moves me translates to how I can facilitate it to move others.
Q. What do you think are the most essential aspects of our mission?
Definitely connection! Mimi Fariña believed not only in the power of live music but also the connection it brings to individuals, letting others know you care about them. That is essentially what our shows accomplish. We are lucky to have over 1,000 performers, hosts and other volunteers who connect with our isolated audiences. The role of the show hosts is so important. Before and after each performance, they will mingle with the attendees, bringing smiles to their faces and often laughter.
Given the recent Coronavirus pandemic, we have fully realized the importance of being able to be flexible and pivot our programming. We are now doing some Courtyard Concerts, or outdoor shows where it is safe and possible to maintain social distancing. Although most of our live performances are temporarily on hiatus, we realize even more that our mission is all about how music brings us together. We have been sending our performers’ videos to many of our facilities and have received a lot of positive feedback regarding how much they appreciate having these online concerts to share with the people they serve. It is all about keeping the musical and heart connection alive!
Q & A -- Intro and Questions by Heidi James, Vice President, Development; Answers by Carolyn Gauthier
1) Headshot by Peter Merts
2) Heidi James (l) and Carolyn Gauthier (r) at 2019 Spring Benefit Concert at Great American Music Hall in SF. Photo by Ken Friedman.