Monday Morning Meet Your Leaders – Michele Russo

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We are excited to bring back #MondayMorningMeetYourLeaders and we are reigniting the series with Michele Russo. Michele is the President & CEO of Young Audiences New Jersey & Eastern Pennsylvania. Camryn Morrow, our DIAL Intern interviewed Michele and authored the article.

Michele never envisioned herself working in the art and culture sector – in fact, she didn’t even know she could do this as a job growing up! Out of college, she worked in corporate jobs but soon found joy working in schools with youth where she enjoyed doing the arts with them… makingcreating, and dreaming 

It was a performer she saw from her current place of leadership, Young Audiences, that sparked her excitement for youth creative arts exposure, ultimately leading her to the organization.   

What is your favorite part of working in arts education?
“I believe so much in the behind-the-scenes work that has to happen for the artist to be in the room with children for those experiences to happen, and the intentionality, planning, and vision behind that, that lets children have those experiences. It gives me tons of joy and satisfaction to be one of the pieces of the puzzle that makes that happen – even if that child never knows that I exist because the artist is the rockstar, the connector, and the primary relationship.”  

Have you faced any obstacles on your road to success?
“As the head of an organization, you need to know about everything. You have a plethora of responsibilities and roles that you play, and there is often gear shifting depending on how conversations go and sometimes even imposter syndrome – and you feel like ‘I don’t know how to do this.”  

How do you combat imposter syndrome?
“I try to practice self-care… meditation, exercise, things to help with my sleep and keep my stress levels down.  

I also try to remember that anything that you are doing now that you don’t think you’re good at, someone else is doing a worse job than you and thinks they’re great at it. So, I have to re-orient my own self-critiques and know that more times than not that it is a self-critique and not a reflection of reality. 

Also, this is silly – but I used to pretend that I was Oprah! What would Oprah do? If Oprah had to walk into a room and do something, she would walk into the room and do it. So, I would pretend for just a little bit like I was Oprah – she wouldn’t doubt what she would say.”  

What role does mentorship play in your life? 
“I am a big sister in Big Brother Big Sisters. I don’t know if she sees me as a mentor or just an adult on her side, and maybe that is the same thing. I started with Raven when she was ten, and she is now 17, so the relationship has changed throughout the years and is just wonderful. I see my role as being another adult on her side to support her and allow her to be the best version of herself that she can be.” 

tor or just an adult on her side, and maybe that is the same thing. I started with Raven when she was ten, and she is now 17, so the relationship has changed throughout the years and is just wonderful. She has just needed another adult on her side to support her and allow her to be the best version of herself that she can be.” 

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