Interview with CMC’s New Executive Director: Julie Rulyak Steinberg

Julie Rulyak Steinberg’s career is one of nonprofit advancement and strategy coupled with a passion for community music education. Prior to joining Community Music Center, Julie served as the Executive Director of Turtle Bay Music School in New York City. Turtle Bay Music School is a founding member of the National Guild for Community Arts Education and one of the oldest and most reputable community music schools in the country. Prior to working with TBMS, Julie was the Managing Director of Cynthia Glacken Associates, a leader in nonprofit communications, strategy, and design.


You started at CMC on September 18. How have your first few weeks been?

Julie: I’m so grateful to be at Community Music Center. It’s an incredible honor and opportunity for me. I am in awe of CMC and its mission and incredible legacy, and by how many people are touched by CMC’s programs each year.

Everyone has been so welcoming and kind in my first few weeks. I’ve loved learning about their hopes and dreams for the Center, and what CMC means to this community. As I’m trying to understand all the ways that CMC touches lives, the perspectives of the people who are closest to the organization have been really helpful. I’ve been trying to take in every facet of CMC like a sponge, and it’s no easy feat. There’s so much going on here and so much to get one’s arms and mind around—but I’m really enjoying the challenge!


What drew you to CMC and a career in community arts education?

Julie: I think what drew me to the field of community arts is the idea that tapping into creativity and making broad connections is essential to thriving communities, and that local organizations like CMC are critical to help make big-picture understanding possible. To me what’s important about community music-making is bringing people together with an instrument (pardon the pun!) to create bonds of acceptance and change. Music connects people, people who might not otherwise meet or share their lives with one another. I believe that making music together helps people find common understanding and common purpose. To me, finding joy in making music is equally as important and valuable as pursuing, say, a rigorous professional career. And at CMC, you can do both!

There is also immeasurable value in the contributions our faculty members make to our mission, and there’s so much that professional musicians can share with students that goes beyond technique and repertoire. Studying music engages people to really listen, and it builds confidence. There is also something essential about challenging yourself, pushing yourself beyond perceived limits to achieve something you might have thought possible. In a community music setting, there’s an incredible amount of teaching and learning that has nothing to do with music.


How does your training as a singer and teacher inform your work?

Julie: As a teacher, you’re always keeping a holistic view in mind as you teach different aspects of your subject, knowing that each element you share with students supports greater overall understanding. As an arts administrator, you have to keep the big picture in mind while tracking how all the day-to-day pieces are working together.

As a singer performing with others, your performance affects everyone, and something unpredictable always happens on stage! Being part of an arts organization, you make room for the unexpected too, and no matter what the show must go on!


What’s on your short list for completing your first month at CMC?

Julie: My most important goal is to speak fluent CMC as quickly as possible. I want to get to know all the people, the different facets and inner workings, the procedures, the finances, and the opportunities that are in front of the organization. I am wide open to learning and feedback. My hope is to also “tend the garden” as I’m learning, building relationships that exist at CMC, and helping to forge new ones. I also hope that, maybe just maybe, I’ll get to make some music with my new colleagues, too.


What do you like to do in your spare time?
Julie: I try to spend lots of time with my family, especially my husband and my two-year-old son. I love choral singing and hope that, in time, I’ll find a new group to sing with – I’m open to suggestions! I also love to run, and I am hoping to get back to triathlon, too. Oh, and I’m in search of the best taco in San Francisco, so I hope CMC friends will point me in the right direction, or better yet, join me for one!

See the press release and Julie’s bio for more information about her career highlights. Also, check out her welcome letter.