London celebrations

Leadership Coach Suzy Jackson – London Jazz News

Originally from Canterbury in Kent, Suzy Jackson studied for a B.Mus at King’s College London, which has a partnership with the Royal Academy of Music, and where she studied flute. Suzy led the University of London Big Band from 2009 to 2011 and also formed an events company, Bright Young Events, while still a student.

She joined a large professional services firm after college, left the UK to work in their New York office in 2014 and lived there until 2020, when she moved to Charlotte, Carolina. North. She is now the firm’s managing director and leadership coach through her own company SKJ Coaching (link below).

In this interview for International Women’s Day 2022, Suzy reflects on how lessons learned from being active (and proactive) in music in London just over a decade ago informed and inspired her subsequent career. Interview with Sebastian Scottey.

Susie Jackson. Photo provided

London Jazz News: It’s not often that students put as much positive energy into the ULU Big Band as you do. What prompted you to jump in and take the lead?

Suzy Jackson: If you know me, you’ll know that I’m not one to stand back, no matter the scenario! But seriously, I soon realized we had a great unique value proposition that deserved some air time in the market – we were tight, well rehearsed and half the price of a professional band – it made sense for me that the band deserved the opportunity to play in a professional setting and I wanted to be instrumental in making that happen.

LJN: As you mention, you were determined to get the band out, to play. Was it easy to persuade the students to commit to high quality and to ‘show their best’? Were there any difficult times?

SJ: Oh my god so much! I vividly remember almost missing a flight because one of the players was held up on the subway trying to convince the airline to hold the cargo. Or trying to organize pick-up and drop-off of vans in the middle of central London…logistics was always fun and fun. However, the people were a dream to work with. I had some of my best friends in that group and everyone was always ready to do their best. Everyone also contributed as peers – we were truly a cohesive unit all working towards the same end goal.

LJN: And you also started your own business… while you were still a student. What’s the story there?

S.J.: During my second year of college, I began to feel that there was a huge void in the market when it came to music for corporate events (which, through a series of events individuals, has also evolved into haute couture events). Clients sought polished, well-organized bands, but found it difficult to work with more “casual” musicians whose strengths might not be legal agreements, dress codes, or client liaison. I created Bright Young Events (my thesis in university was on Bright Young Things and jazz – I’m still fascinated by this era in history) and acted as an intermediary to work between clients and the musicians, and I really loved every second of it.

LJN: Looking back, how have these experiences helped you pursue the career you have now?

S.J.: Running Bright Young Events and ULUBB was the first time I realized how much I loved the business side of the music business. I had been interested for a long time – in fact it was a driving force in my choice to study music (because I knew the companies I was interested in were open to all degrees) – but BYE and ULUBB really cemented this fascination in business and coaching for me. I loved spending time thinking about what was working well, what could be improved, advising clients and working in a great team to achieve goals, and my career has fortunately given me the opportunity to continue to do all of these things in a myriad of ways.

Life Lessons: Suzy Jackson in 2010/11 at the University of London Battle of the Bands.

LJN: Were there any lightbulb instances/moments where the memory of your big band days gave you the answer to navigate your career later?

S.J.: Probably two key things come to mind today:

  1. The power of having a mentor and a friend throughout your career. Pete Long was that person for me during my ULU years. He came in regularly to coach the group, but always went above and beyond to give introductions, give advice and gently guide me in the right direction. We are still friends today and he was the first person I really considered a trusted advisor. I really think of him as someone who is a giant in his industry, yet still so humble and kind. Luckily now, I have continued to be surrounded by many true mentors, and I coach my SKJ Co. clients on their “Personal Board of Directors” – Pete was my first “Director”!
  2. The power of butterflies. There were many, many performances where I felt physically sick with nerves (Kent Young Musician of the Year, I’m looking at you), but I always came out the other side, so glad I was pushed and to have done so. I’ve embraced this mentality my entire career – if I don’t have butterflies/I don’t feel bad, I’m not growing fast enough!

LJN: Is the big band or the jazz ensemble a metaphor for business?

S.J.: Absolutely, and the one I use a lot! The concept of a group being only as strong as its individual sections (departments), the idea and importance of culture, teamwork and recognition, the orientation around teamwork for deliver a concert (product or deliverables). I could go on…it will make a great book one day!

LJN: Music students are now being told they need “viable” careers. Are there skills that musicians develop, maybe even unknowingly, things that they do instinctively, that equip them for the corporate world, you know?

S.J.: Is this the implication that music is not a viable career? This makes me sad! Of course, I enjoy working with other creatives – the ability to think outside the box, comfort in high pressure environments/public places, working well as an individual artist as well as in a team, the understanding of the need to practice and commit to improvement etc. SKJ Coaching offers a discount to clients who work in the arts, and always will, this is an incredibly important client segment for me personally.

Interestingly, one of the main things I coach through SKJ Coaching is public speaking, and the key principles of my approach are rooted in what I learned at the Royal Academy of Music on the Alexander Technique, how to practice consistently and how I was trained to deal with nerves before performances.

LJN: Did you manage to get to some memorable jazz in your New York years?

S.J.: Sure! My favorite is (I always go to New York every two weeks) Village Vanguard – love the vibe. Curiously, I attribute my fascination with New York, and my eventual move there, to a summer when I was 15 when I went to the United States to take a course at Berklee College of Music in Boston, and my aunt, who was living in the United States at the time, met me in Boston and took me on a trip to New York. She took me to Iridium (I don’t even know how I got there at that age!) and I was completely thrilled.

LJN: Do you sometimes miss Canterbury or London?

S.J.: Sure! I have a group of school friends in Kent and a couple of friends from King’s in London who sometimes make absences very difficult. My sister recently had her first child, so I’m officially an aunt and really looking forward to spending more time with my nephew. I refuse to live in a place where there is no direct flight to London, and my husband and I return there regularly. I love to travel and really hope we can live in another country in the future for work…my days of wandering are definitely not over.

LJN: This is one of the features of LJN for IWD. What do you think of the very idea of ​​IWD?

S.J.: I think this is a vitally important initiative and asks all of us to consider the work that remains to be done for women’s equality, while celebrating all the incredible things that women around the world have accomplished. A joyful day, but rooted in a call to action.

LINK : SKJ Coaching website