I´ve decided to write about women that have personally inspired me as a leader. First out is Cecilia Martin-Löf, choir conductor.
Growing up, I was def not the most outgoing or popular kid in school. I was self-conscious, insecure and shy in social settings where I did not feel comfortable. My parents always encouraged my activities outside of school; may it be I soccer, tennis, dance, gymnastics, painting, English classes or the student council. As an 11-year old in a new town, I was accepted to the Uppsala Cathedral Girls´ Choir, where I sang for almost ten years.
The first few years, we had a lot of conductors coming in, mostly good ones (and a really horrible one who scared us). But there was never anyone who stayed long enough for us to feel comfortable enough in our performances. The boys´ choir of the cathedral had much more rehearsing time, were a larger group with a lot of involved parents and cash. Our little group (diminishing as the conductors came and went) didn´t get to sing a lot of fun material, nor was attendance very high. It was almost embarrassing to perform since we were not very good and it didn´t feel like people believed in us.
But during my last year in junior high, Cecilia made her entrance. She was filled with energy and new ideas, and she brought it all to the rehearsals. She was a huge encouragement to us, and put so much effort into making us better singers and friends. One of the little things she did was to supply us with a bit of money so we could buy sandwiches and eat together before rehearsals. Most girls came straight from school, and being able to have a snack before rehearsals made us talk more to each other and get to know one another and her. This is where I got to know one of my closest and best friends, Caroline.
Cecilia also asked us what we wanted to do as singers. This resulted in us putting up a musical, written by the amazing writer/singer/songwriter Johanna Olofsson. We were still a relatively small group, but with Cecilia´s support, we managed to make it all happen. Being an all-female choir, the musical material is a bit different from when you have the range with male voices as well, but this material was used for just the female voices. Cecilia planned a weekend where we rehearsed, she got us singing lessons in groups, and she took our interest in certain boys in the other choir seriously 🙂
I remember Cecilia inviting me, Caroline and a couple of the other older girls to her apartment just to spend time. She was so grown-up to us, had her own apartment where the floor was tilted (old house) and if you put a bottle on one side of the room, it would roll to the other side. It felt like having a big sister listening to you. At this time, we also made the choir an organization and I became its first president.
I would never have trusted myself into this, to me, very prominent position, had it not been for Cecilia. This is the place and time where I took my first steps leading others. I was given responsibility and possibilities to take charge and leave my comfort zone in so many ways, including leading meetings, working together with the older boys in the other choir, and planning parts of our performances. I even got to play one of the leading roles in the musical and had a solo!
Cecilia made all of this easy for me. I always felt like she had my back, that me and the other girls in the choir could really accomplish anything we set our mind to. I can´t even imagine all the work she put in for us to be able to do all of these things, and she was always there for us, pushing us to go further. Cecilia was always filled with energy and positive attitude, and she was always willing to discuss issues with us.
We only got to work with Cecilia for about a year and a half, but she created a great ground for us to stand on for the future, both musically and socially. Cecilia is now the chief conductor for DR Pigekoret in Denmark and Lund´s Academic Choir (if Wikipedia is still correct). I´m so happy that I got to work with her, and the impact that she has made in my life. Thank you Cecilia.
This is a picture that shows how I remember Cecilia conducting: happy, energetic and powerful: