Steph Quaye is a music professional committed to building community through music. In addition to being a singer/songwriter, she manages an Afrobeat/pop collective called People’s Champs, and has recently joined the Board of Women in Music as an Events Chair. She currently helps lead operations for all performing arts programming at BRIC, a non-profit arts organization in downtown Brooklyn, N.Y.
Success is such a personal concept – we all see and define it differently. How did you personally define your success?
To me, success means having the resources -—time, energy, money — to create the life that I want for myself. That involves me producing (and supporting the production of) music and engaging events that allow people to build genuine connections with each other. I want to put all that I have into celebrating art and building intentional community, as they are both fundamental to how I view the world personally and professionally.
What advice would you give women who want to enter your side of the industry - What are your top three tips?
— Have conversations with people who are doing the work you’re interested in doing.
— Ask thoughtful questions.
— Don’t let perceived differences get in the way of building new relationships.
How have the personal and professional experiences in your life contributed to your success today?
I left my home in N.J. when I was 13 years old to attend a boarding high school in New Hampshire — no, I wasn’t a troublemaker! Being in such an academically and socially intense environment taught me the importance of managing my time and communicating well with different kinds of people. In addition to my ‘day job,’ I’m involved with a number of organizations that have me working on many different projects simultaneously, so I rely on those time management and communication skills every day.
Can you share with us some of the challenges you’ve faced?
While music has always been a big part of my life, it wasn’t integrated into my career until about tw0 years ago. My professional life centered around business and accounting — I’m a licensed CPA and used to work at a Big Four accounting firm— while my personal life was where I expressed myself musically through writing and performing. A major challenge I faced was coming to terms with the fact that, though I was at a great firm and had a ‘stable’ career, I wasn’t happy with what my life looked like. Leaving behind a career that I had spent many years preparing for was incredibly scary, but it was important that my professional life engage my creative and analytical skills equally. I’m glad I made the leap!
What is the most valuable lesson you’ve learned?
The most valuable lesson I’ve learned is to do what I can, with what I have, to leave spaces better than I found them. This was a part of the ethos of a choir that I was a part of when I lived in Boston (hey Kuumba!), and it has been my personal philosophy ever since. By focusing on contributing in both large and small ways to any space that I occupy, I’ve created meaningful relationships and been offered great opportunities. It’s often the little things that get you noticed and open doors.
What do you think is the most pressing issue women in the music industry face in your region?
Feeling like they have to make themselves smaller to accommodate the egos of people in power. We’ve got to take up more space, ladies!
Who inspires you, and why?
Writer, director, and actress Issa Rae is a huge inspiration to me. She has built her career by creating nuanced stories featuring characters of color in a refreshing way and has done so on her own terms. I want my music and the events I produce to be similarly engaging and relevant, and seeing her thrive has definitely encouraged me.
What do you look forward to accomplishing in the next year?
Layered vocals bring me immense joy and I’ve performed background vocals for some amazing artists on varied stages — from C’mon Everybody in Brooklyn, N.Y. to Bonnaroo in Manchester, Tenn. While I love supporting other artists, I want to continue to explore my artistry and share my musical perspective with the world. New tunes are coming soon, so look out for them!
What is your ultimate goal and what do you need to take it to the next level?
My ultimate goal is to not only produce creative and memorable live music experiences, but also to help musicians build community around their work. In order to take it to the next level, I need to connect with like-minded professionals with great ideas — let’s collaborate!
You can follow Stephanie at: