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United We Are a Force, and Individually We are W.O.N.

Image Courtesy of Carolyn Keurajian

Women of Note celebrates the unique talents of women of Hampton Roads and seeks to raise awareness of issues women face in the 21st century. We are well aware of the many hats women wear throughout the day as well as throughout their lives and we would like to give women the opportunity to share their experiences juggling these with our community. By sharing our experiences, we hope to inspire others, learn from their perspectives, and foster a dialogue that creates solutions. Today we spot light Carolyn Keurajian.

Affiliation(s) (past and present):

The Williamsburg Symphony Orchestra, League of American Orchestras, LEAD Greater Williamsburg, Williamsburg Business Council

How long have you been (working in/participating in) your field? How did you get into it?

In January 2013, I accepted the Executive Director position at The Williamsburg Symphony Orchestra. I can honestly say that I was in the right place at the right time. After producing a musical fundraising event for a local non-profit in 2012, a colleague sent me the job description and suggested I apply. Although I've played in orchestras and wind ensembles as a musician for many years, I was new to the management side of orchestra. The WSO looked at my background in fundraising, sales, event planning, and performance and took a chance on me. The rest is history.

How long have you been working/ living in in Hampton Roads?

Our family moved to Hampton Roads from NJ in Nov. 2011.

What advice would you give young women going into your field?

Find a way to get some experience with fundraising and grant writing. Learn how to put together a budget and understand basic accounting. Serve on a non-profit board to learn about board service. All of these skills will be invaluable in the Executive Director role of any arts organization.

Does your gender influence your relationship to your work? In what way?

Being a woman and mother does influence my work. I bring the ability to multi-task at a high level, plan ahead for multiple outcomes and pivot quickly, handle conflict resolution, and lead with compassion while still managing the bottom line. It's like a complex dance all day long.

Have you faced challenges in your field because of your gender or have you found your gender to be an asset? What kinds of challenges or advantages, and how have they affected your life?

No, I would not say gender has been a challenge for me. I grew up in Alaska and that pioneer spirit and determination was ingrained in me at a young age. I did everything my brothers did and was competitive about it too. It never occurred to me that I couldn't do something because I was a woman and I think that has served me well over the course of my career.

Has parenthood impacted your career or shaped your perspective as an artist? In what ways?

Without a doubt, being a parent of three children has impacted my career and perspective. Early in my career, I accepted jobs that allowed me flexibility with my schedule and generous time off. As my children matured, I took on more complex jobs and duties. Now as an Executive Director, I do my best to give flexibility to staff who are trying to balance their work and family life. It has made me a more compassionate and empathetic leader.

Any closing thoughts?

Find other women who will mentor and champion you. I'm so grateful for the many women who believed in me and I pass it forward at every opportunity.

Know a Woman of Note that should be featured? Please email us at

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