SWIM Fund Scholarship Recipient, Leanne Chu, Reflects on Experiences at Summer NAMM

Leanne Chu

Leanne Chu, Project Manager at Gator Cases was one of three recipients of the Smart Women in Music (SWIM) Fund grant - a program that assists women in the music products industry in attending NAMM Shows with the hopes of expanding the influence of women in the music products industry. Chu attended the 2019 Summer NAMM Show in Nashville, Tennessee and reflected on her experience, both at Summer NAMM and on her career in the industry.

A while ago my manager asked me if I was happy with my current job. With no time to come up with the “perfect” answer, I wanted to have one that was honest and genuine: "Yes, I am happy – I’m happy and grateful, because I know that I am in the right place, doing the right things, and on the right path to succeed.” At that time, I had just come back from Summer NAMM - a trip sponsored by the Smart Women in Music (SWIM) Fund. As excited as I could have been when I first found out about the award, I had no idea that I'd come back with such contentment and confidence regarding my job and where it is going.

  • SWIM at Summer NAMME
  • SWIM Fund Scholarship Recipients & NAMM Chairperson, Robin Walenta
  • Chu & NAMM Chairperson, Robin Walenta

Thanks to SWIM, I had the opportunity to experience this passion at a whole new level while attending Summer NAMM this year. I'm not just talking about the overall excitement you generally get at an industry trade show, although that was another incredible experience on its own, I’m referring to this sense of camaraderie you immediately receive with everyone you meet. There is a climate of sharing and a feeling that everyone just "belonged." The very first morning at the show, I was greeted at the "VIP Room,” sharing breakfast with NAMM Chair, Robin Walenta, NAMM President and CEO, Joe Lamond, and other NAMM staff who immediately congratulated me on receiving the SWIM grant. "This is a big deal," I thought to myself. Over the course of the next few days, I learned firsthand how significant the SWIM initiative is for the future of an ever-thriving, passion driven industry that we’re so incredibly lucky to be a part of.

SWIM seeks to grow and nurture the next generation of female leaders who are equally devoted to the industry as those in current leadership positions. This amount of devotion calls for personal commitment and enormous focus, but it is also the exact reason why the group started in the first place – to provide the support needed to help these future leaders succeed. SWIM is not just a scholarship granting organization; it provides invaluable trainings and mentorship programs that educate and inspire. I was fortunate enough to be given the opportunity to job shadow Taylor Guitars CFO, Barbara Wight, and NAMM Director of Public Relations, Chalise Zolezzi as part of my experience. They shared with me the ins and outs of their everyday work life, career journey, and aspirations. Not only were they able to give me extremely practical and insightful job advice, they also connected me with other industry professionals who are experts in areas that relate to my current role at Gator Cases as Project Manager. In between meeting new people and learning about what they do, I often took notice of the pride and joy I had in sharing about my work with others. I realized the reason everyone feels so connected is because we all share the same passion for the “little” that we do at our own job, which then accumulates to make this industry full of energy and enthusiasm. As Chalise said, “… Each person has its own stake in the ecosystem of the industry, and the vibrancy of Summer NAMM is a great expression of that – as a result, there are no “small” parts (or people!) as all are important.” SWIM is a perfect example to show that everyone with the same passion who wants to grow their career within the industry is welcomed, no matter your gender, background, or job title.

I’m incredibly honored to be one of the inaugural SWIM scholars and now an ambassador for this great initiative. I strongly believe that with the joint leadership from the steering committee of SWIM – some of the most devoted and well-respected women leaders in the industry – we’re ready to move forward and celebrate a new chapter of diversity. Special thanks go to our generous donors!

If you truly love what you do and seek career growth in this wonderful industry, I invite you to "SWIM" with us! Apply for the next scholarship grant to attend The 2020 NAMM Show and join the SWIM Team – I guarantee that you will be inspired. For more information about The 2020 NAMM Show SWIM Scholarship and to apply please visit https://www.nammfoundation.org/articles/2019-07-08/swim-fund-smart-women-music-fund-namm-show-scholarship and for more information about the SWIM Fund please visit http://smartwomeninmusic.org/.