I walked into Jessica Rivera’s live podcast interview with a full day of anxiety on my shoulders. Rivera, the Executive Vice President and Head of East Coast Operations at Universal Music group, was on campus to host a student song screening, and recorded a live podcast interview beforehand to talk about her work and past accomplishments. With a long to-do list that took all my energy to write, I sat in David Friend Recital Hall ready to zone out. Two hours later, I was a vibrant music student with enough energy to power the entire campus coursing through my veins. Seriously, you could’ve set me up with a life-sized hamster wheel and Berklee would’ve saved a pretty penny on their electricity bill.
This revived motivation came from Rivera’s message throughout the interview: “Just raise your hand.” It doesn’t matter if you don’t feel ready or if you are afraid of the tasks at hand—if you’re passionate about the work then you won’t regret the gesture.
Jessica Rivera raised her hand when she was in the studio with A Tribe Called Quest and Q-Tip asked her if she knew anyone that could be his assistant. She laughed as she told the story, and re-enacted the moment that her hand shot in the air with blind enthusiasm. Watching Rivera raise her hand on stage reminded me why I am studying until my eyelids are too heavy and dragging my textbooks across Boylston Street – so I can have the education and experience that makes me unafraid to raise my hand for any opportunity in the music industry.
For seniors especially, it can be all too easy to set one’s brain into autopilot and coast through the last two semesters, so it takes a voice like Jessica’s to bring the excitement back and give a purpose to this last year that can sometimes be hard to see.
And about halfway through the interview, I received another jolt of motivation from her answer to the inevitable question, “What advice would you give other women trying to work in the male-dominated music industry?” Every woman that has stepped foot in a record label has been asked the question, but Jessica’s answer was a refreshing spin on the idea of just being a confident woman in the workplace.
“Know what you’re talking about. Just put your blinders on and do what you do, and it won’t matter if you’re the only woman in the room.” I loved the simple yet empowering answer, the focus on the work itself that is so unwavering. Today’s music industry is busy navigating itself through the pioneering world of streaming and social media, and the work to figure out “what’s next” is too important to ignore. It shouldn’t matter your gender, just what you know.
Jessica Rivera has proven that what she knows has been the foundation of her career with artists like Rihanna, Kanye West, Alex Da Kidd, and Imagine Dragons. Sure she’s had frustrating moments and had to deal with the necessary evil that is patience in the music industry, but her fearlessness and her constant belief in the music has inspired me to raise my hand more this last year at Berklee so I can get the practice to bring it into the industry like she has.
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