Children across America typically spend at least a portion of their day in a school music room. Often referred to as one of the “specials,” music class exposes children to learning outside the core subjects and is often the beginning of a new outlet for expression. For some, like Tammy Meinershagen, the music room is that and so much more.
Growing up as a child of South Korean immigrants in a very Swedish town of Rockford, IL, Tammy recounts how she was often bullied and ridiculed for what she describes as small eyes and black hair. It was not until she became a parent in her 30s that she really accepted her ethnicity and celebrated it. The arts played an enormous role in her ability to cope, grow, and develop.
“Though I didn’t speak English when I started pre-school, the only way I knew how to communicate with others was in music class. It was the one safe place where I could connect and make friends. I soon began to learn to play the violin and piano, and music became my first language,” she said. “Playing music brought immense joy to me and others, and though I didn’t realize it at the time, I experienced the unifying power of music and the arts. Because the arts and diversity are so interwoven in my life, I will always be a strong advocate of both.”
Fast forward to present day, and Tammy is the Executive Director or Frisco Arts, a collective impact organization and the city’s nonprofit arts advocacy agency. Its mission is to advance the arts in Frisco while building a stronger community through the arts. The organization connects artists to the community while supporting its local arts businesses, creators, and aspiring artists. According to Tammy, Frisco Arts’s success hinges on its commitment to respect others, pursue excellence, and exercise an unwavering focus on its shared vision to advance the arts in Frisco.
While Tammy takes comfort in the organization’s many successes, one of the things of which she is most proud is its diverse membership. She explains that Frisco is an international city with people moving there from all over the country and all over the world, and that diversity is reflected in its membership.
“It’s a beautiful thing when you walk into a Frisco Arts event and you see people of all ages and ethnicities who share the same passion for the arts,” Tammy said. “At our annual HeARTfelt Celebration, we had over 180 people literally drumming to the same beat with the Drum Cafe, tangibly exemplifying the power of the arts to unify diverse members of the community.”
It is this type of display, that, for Tammy, speaks to the heart of what diversity is all about and why it must matter. As Tammy describes, diversity is reality, and it is truth. She believes that celebrating diversity helps people feel a sense of belonging, which she says is a core need for each of us. Tammy explains that when we accept diversity, we build stronger communities.
Tammy is passionate about her role in helping grow the creative revolution in Frisco where the arts is inspiring, rejuvenating, and bringing joy to people of all ages, ethnicities, professions, and walks of life.
“To me, diversity is not limited to race and religion; it’s also about diversity of thought and passion. We are each unique, complex individuals with various stories and backgrounds,” Tammy said. “The arts is a unifying medium that brings diverse people together to share common experiences and connect with each other. It’s vitally important that we don’t lose our diversity but celebrate it, and the arts can help do just that.”