ArtistCorps Alumni Stories: Kendra Harding

Kendra Harding obtained a Master’s in Music Composition from UNCSA while serving in ArtistCorps from 2015 to 2017. She is currently a performer, educator, and freelancer throughout the Winston-Salem, North Carolina area. We interviewed her in person to hear about her experiences since leaving ArtistCorps.

What are you doing now?

Primarily, I am a performer in a folk duo, the “Brown Mountain Lightning Bugs.” I also do quite a bit of freelance work with organizations here in Winston Salem. In addition, I teach music lessons, mostly to little kids but more recently I have had a couple of older folks who are taking guitar lessons, which is super fun!

How did ArtistCorps impact you and your art?

The biggest impact was that it healed some trauma that I had experienced in the name of service. My parents had worked overseas and witnessed people who’d say they were helping other people but were actually doing more harm than good. I had sworn off the idea of ever doing anything in my community and being involved with people because I had such a bad taste in my mouth from seeing people do horrible things. The opportunity for ArtistCorps came up and I was desperate to get out of an office job that I didn’t want. I took it and the experience changed my view of service and what serving people actually looks like. I was able to have good experiences around helping others rather than seeing all the negative things.

I also became a lot more patient with myself because I had to be patient while serving eighteen preschoolers who very loudly, disruptively, and simultaneously want to tell you that they need different things. In teaching children, I learned how to better teach myself which made me a lot more patient in that regard.

How did your experience in ArtistCorps change your perspective of everyday life?

I would have to say just being able to accept failure more gracefully and graciously. Being an artist, it’s really easy to be a perfectionist. Knowing that everyone fails, even if you don’t see their failures, is a part of growth. I’ve been able to turn around and give that back to people. I had a student yesterday who had auditioned for something, didn’t get it and was really having a rough time in her lesson. I shared some of my stories of embarrassing things that happened to me, where I failed auditions or didn’t get a part that I wanted. I told her to remember that a “No” is not necessarily a “No, never,” it’s a “No, not now.” You may be able to come back and do that same thing or something even better, so just keep on chugging and don’t let this one setback sour your taste on music for the rest of your life.

February 25, 2020