Madison Calley’s journey to create a more inclusive environment for musicians



The harp, one of the oldest musical instruments in the world, is a staple in the orchestral world where you can often hear the tunes of classical music. However, this instrument, whose origins date back to 3000 BC.

Calley is one of the few orchestral musicians to lead a renaissance of the harp with music played on the instrument beyond the reach of traditional genres. Her Instagram page features several of her musical covers of melodic pop and R&B soul songs in a room filled with green plants capturing the hearts of over 525,000 listeners with songs from today and yesteryear. What follows is just the tip of the iceberg for all of his musical acumen.

Not only did she amass a large following and land a gig at the 2021 Grammys, but she also had the opportunity to appear at the Latin Grammys, BET Awards, countless musical and video performances, and sponsor brands of renowned lifestyle to advance a new piece in the industry. All culminating in his latest project, a first album under the Apple Platoon label.

Early in his career, Calley identified that becoming an entrepreneur would allow him to help the next generation of musicians expand the reach of the orchestral realm, an industry where less than five percent of concert musicians are people of color. Calley further shares her personal journey to create a more inclusive environment for musicians, including tips she has deployed to support industry leaders and musicians.

The seeds that gave birth to the musical entrepreneur

Calley attributes her debut in music to a family request that she and her brother choose a sport and an instrument. Then, one evening, at the age of four, Calley visited a restaurant she frequented in Alexandria, Virginia with her family, where she heard a harpist playing Disney songs. Meanwhile, she remembers being moved while listening to songs she loved on an instrument that was new to her. It was then that his love for the harp was born. Additionally, his love for entrepreneurship was deepened by witnessing his mother who played the piano and his grandfather who was a music teacher in Tuskegee, Alabama and was Lionel Richie’s first music teacher.

Calley’s classical training began shortly thereafter at the age of six with piano music theory, and then led her to begin playing the harp at the age of eight. With playing experience, she was eventually accepted into the DC Youth Orchestra and later an opportunity to study music at Carnegie Mellon University.

During this journey, duality became a key part of Calley’s musical experience as she began to explore more of who she was as an artist and as a person. “Watching all the changes in the music industry and being fascinated by the intersections between classical and contemporary music, I quickly realized that opening my own performance path and my own career path was the only trajectory for me. building a business and a brand based on the things I enjoyed. , spaces to heal and have a bigger impact than me, ”Calley shares.

Subsequently, his company and brand grew out of Calley’s non-linear path. This included giving up music for four years, followed by creating a swimwear line on a move to Los Angeles and resuming the expression of her musical talents after working on a project. with Willow Smith who inspired her to play the harp in a video on social media. The video went viral, resulting in the subsequent sharing of music video covers by Alicia Keys and other celebrities. It was in the process of aligning his schooling, goals, and purpose that Calley’s mission was eminent.

Merge classical and contemporary music as a black entrepreneur

“I understood early in my career that I wanted to live a life that prioritized happiness but incorporated sustainability and impact,” says Calley. Entrepreneurship has become the means by which it can do this. However, during her early years navigating the orchestral arena, she noticed that she was one of the few musicians in the classical field who looked like her. This often led her to encounter unique obstacles as a harpist among peers who had not really embraced her. The Harpist and Undertaker didn’t want this for the others in the field.

This led Calley to focus on business opportunities by embracing his talents, including: 1) his current plan to release a debut album that sounds different and 2) his efforts to make the harp more affordable and accessible to the next generation. . She shares: “I understood early on that my business model would need me to be the teacher, developer, product and distributor and as a woman of color I understood that the time was right. came and that I was committed to creating, leading and establishing what ‘my now’ was like, ”she explains.

With these efforts, Calley’s debut album will feature 8 musical covers that embrace the bridge between classical and contemporary music. Additionally, during virtual student teaching sessions, Calley has consistently made efforts to make learning spaces more inclusive by inspiring his students to embrace their personal roots throughout their musical journeys. She found this important especially as musical literature traditionally embodies the sounds and visuals of its predominant culture.

Balancing business and art

Balance has been a priority for Calley from the start. She shares: “I heard it once said that while not all entrepreneurs are artists, all artists are entrepreneurs, so like most things, finding a balance is important, but providing the space to keep my life. art in its purest form is a priority. ” Calley has found a balance in her personal life to bring out the purity of her music by doing the following: establishing a routine, meditating and practicing gratitude. As a freelance artist, she discovered that opportunities for adventure presented themselves to her when she adopted this way of life. Plus, exercising and eating a healthy diet have been key parts of her daily schedule, which consists of a morning walk or the gym followed by healthy meals that keep her nourished.

This holistic lifestyle has encouraged her to consistently achieve and embrace her branding and authentic self, especially in a harp community that Calley says is very conservative. For example, “the rules for traditional performances often include a certain dress requirement that the clothing be below the knee and no nail polish or heels of a certain height,” she reveals. Calley hopes his example encourages others to feel that they can step into the field in their own way. Given her personal background, Calley aims for her business to holistically portray experiences and wisdom in the realms of lifestyle, fashion and music.

Support the next generation

In conclusion, Calley offers the following practical tips to help artists, educators and industry leaders create a more inclusive environment that welcomes new offerings in arenas where they are not traditionally represented:

  1. Establish a system of self-care and set healthy boundaries: “Balance and constant rhythm fuel creativity and longevity. Too much of anything will have diminishing returns, so it’s extremely important to strike a balance in whatever you do. A consistent bedtime, morning routine, nutrition and exercise program, and a positive and stimulating work environment are a catalyst for manifesting your goals and improving your mental well-being.
  2. Have faith in your own unique individual alignment: “We are all unique individual miracles. You’ll never have all of your ducks lined up, but embodying confidence in your own unique contribution to the Universe maintains the momentum needed to shine your brightest light.
  3. Feed your call: “Give yourself permission to tinker and stay curious about the things that interest you. Read books, explore, and always be a student of your craft. The potential is endless.

Calley hopes his guidance and personal journey show current and future artists and entrepreneurs that they are capable of making their mark on the industry. She believes these words of wisdom, along with building lasting connections in the field, can help artists thrive. She shares: “Building relationships with my students and my audience, negotiating prices and developing my brand have all been crucial in establishing a business and a brand that I hope will one day outlive me, but most of all light someone’s path. ‘another. She is excited about all that is to come on her journey that could inspire the next generation of artists and leaders.



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