The Power of the Performing Arts to Find and Use Your Voice with Theresa Smith-Levin: Podcast Ep. 386

The Power of the Performing Arts to Find and Use Your Voice with Theresa Smith-Levin: Podcast Ep. 386

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A couple of months ago, I attended an event to honor non-profits. What was really cool was that each non-profit had 2-½ minutes to share their story. 

When my guest Theresa Smith-Levin, founder of Central Florida Vocal Arts, shared her story, I was instantly inspired and I knew I had to have her on the podcast.

Our conversation is a testament to the power of storytelling, vulnerability, and community in fostering personal and collective growth.

Theresa’s work with Central Florida Vocal Arts is not just about singing; it’s about creating a space where young people can grow into their authentic selves and learn to navigate the world with empathy and confidence. 

Whether you’re an artist, a public speaker, or someone looking to make a difference in your community, Theresa’s insights offer valuable lessons on the transformative power of using your voice. 

Join us for this inspiring conversation and discover how you, too, can impact the world through the arts, performance, speaking, and beyond.

Here are some highlights you won’t want to miss:

  • Theresa shares her personal journey from finding solace and expression in singing and the arts during her childhood, to pursuing music education and vocal performance, and ultimately founding a nonprofit organization to fill a gap in the performing arts community in Central Florida.
  • Discover the profound impact of the arts on young people, as Theresa explains how singing and performance can serve as powerful tools for emotional processing, developing empathy, and building confidence.
  • Theresa and I delve into the importance of vulnerability, both in the arts and in life, sharing stories of transformation and the courage to use one’s voice for advocacy and change.
  • We explore the similarities between performing arts and public speaking, including overcoming fears, the importance of being present, and engaging with your audience to create a meaningful exchange.

 

 

About My Guest: Theresa Smith-Levin is the Founder and Executive Director of Central Florida Vocal Arts and E.D. of Opera del Sol. She is dedicated to serving the community through arts performance and education, furthering a community that is kinder, more resilient and more connected through equitable performing arts access.

About Us: The Speaking Your Brand podcast is hosted by Carol Cox. At Speaking Your Brand, we help women entrepreneurs and professionals clarify their brand message and story, create their signature talks, and develop their thought leadership platforms. Our mission is to get more women in positions of influence and power because it’s through women’s stories, voices, and visibility that we challenge the status quo and change existing systems. Check out our coaching programs at https://www.speakingyourbrand.com

 

Show notes at https://www.speakingyourbrand.com/386/ 

Central Florida Vocal Arts: https://www.centralfloridavocalarts.org/ 

Discover your Speaker Archetype by taking our free quiz at https://www.speakingyourbrand.com/quiz/

Enroll in our Thought Leader Academy: https://www.speakingyourbrand.com/academy/ 

Connect on LinkedIn:

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386-SYB-Theresa-Smith-Levin.mp3: Audio automatically transcribed by Sonix

386-SYB-Theresa-Smith-Levin.mp3: this mp3 audio file was automatically transcribed by Sonix with the best speech-to-text algorithms. This transcript may contain errors.

Carol Cox:
You’re going to love my conversation with Theresa Smith-Levin on the power of the performing arts to find and use your voice, on this episode of the Speaking Your Brand podcast.

Carol Cox:
More and more women are making an impact by starting businesses, running for office and speaking up for what matters. With my background as a TV political analyst, entrepreneur and speaker, I interview and coach purpose driven women to shape their brands, grow their companies, and become recognized as influencers in their field. This is speaking your brand, your place to learn how to persuasively communicate your message to your audience.

Carol Cox:
Hi there and welcome to the Speaking Your Band podcast. I’m your host, Carol Cox. We’re kicking off a new series all around using your Voice. I have interviews lined up, including this one today to inspire you to use your voice no matter what your topic or your industry. A couple of months ago, I attended an event in Orlando to honor a nonprofits here. What was really cool about this event was that each nonprofit had 2.5 minutes to share their story with the audience. When my guest today, Theresa Smith-Levin, founder of Central Florida Vocal Arts, shared her story, I was instantly inspired and I knew I had to have her on the podcast. Fortunately, I happened to run into her in the hallway after the event and I went over to her, introduced myself, and invited her on the podcast.

Carol Cox:
Our conversation is a testament to the power of storytelling, vulnerability and community, and fostering personal and collective growth. Theresa’s work with Central Florida Vocal Arts is not just about singing, it’s about creating a space where people can grow into their authentic selves and learn to navigate the world with empathy and confidence. Whether you’re an artist, a singer, a public speaker, or someone looking to make a difference in your community, Theresa’s insights offer valuable lessons on the transformative power of using your voice. And trust me, you do not have to be a singer in order to get so much value out of this episode. I can’t sing, and I told Theresa that at the end after we stopped recording and she said, no, everyone can sing. And I said, no, no, you haven’t heard me. But she she was trying to convince me that that’s not the case. Uh, but anyway, so whether you are a singer or an artist or a performer or not, you are going to love this episode. If you’re new to the podcast, welcome as speaking your brand. We work with women entrepreneurs, professionals and leaders to clarify their brand message and story, create their signature talks, and develop their thought leadership platforms. You can find out more about what we do at speaking your brand.com. Now let’s get on with the show. Welcome to the Speaking Your Brand podcast, Theresa.

Theresa Smith-Levin:
Thank you. Carol. Thank you for having me.

Carol Cox:
I’m excited to have you on, because we have never had a professional singer on the podcast, at least as far as that I can remember. And as I mentioned in the intro, we met at a Victory Cup initiative breakfast, which was to award grants to nonprofits in the Central Florida area, including yours, which is Central Florida Vocal Arts. And what I loved about the way that they set up the event was that each nonprofit had to had, what was it, 60s or something to deliver their story to the audience? So it felt like 60s.

Theresa Smith-Levin:
It was 2.5 minutes, but it was a hard 2.5 minutes. There was no wiggle on that.

Carol Cox:
There was as soon as the 2.5 minute mark went, like they were like the music was cueing. They were like yanking you off the stage kind of thing. But it was so impactful to have each nonprofit share that story, because we know how powerful storytelling is. And Theresa, when you got up there and shared your story, I knew instantly I had to connect with you and invite you on the podcast. And luckily I ran into you in the hallway afterwards. I was like, here’s my card, please, let’s come on my podcast. So welcome. So let’s start there. Can you tell us a little bit about your story and how singing in the arts helped you to find your use your voice?

Theresa Smith-Levin:
Absolutely. So I think so. Oftentimes we have young people and I’m a mom myself. And we see kids with these big feelings and these big experiences and nowhere really no outlet to put those feelings, those emotions. And so the place where I found that I felt the most at home and the most able to feel and process what was going on for me was in the arts. And I always loved singing, and that was a place where I really just experienced joy. And because I had such wonderful parents, even though I don’t think I was the most talented, naturally gifted singer, they very much supported that endeavor and I just followed through. I grew up in Central Florida, pursued choir in high school, middle school, went on to study music education at the collegiate level, and then vocal performance for my master’s degree. And what happened after that is when I came back to Central Florida, there was a gap in the market. Orlando Opera Company had filed for bankruptcy. There wasn’t a large performing arts classical vocal arts company. And truly, I feel like the universe God, however you want to look at it, called me to start this nonprofit overnight, and what has been really amazing is it has been an opportunity to combine my passion for community with the thing that I’m really good at, and so helping other young people to be able to grow in confidence, connection, empathy, to find their voice, to figure out how they really feel about the world themselves and be empowered to share that we use music as a tool, as a catalyst for that empowerment, but truly that the goal is to help people to step into who they were meant to be authentically.

Carol Cox:
And as you’re working with these young people, what are you finding about singing and music in the arts that helps them to kind of like, is it breaking through their defenses? Is it allowing them to be more, more vulnerable? Is it is it providing a safe space for them to have these emotions?

Theresa Smith-Levin:
So a lot of times I explain this idea through the idea of team sports because especially, um, for, for our male followers out there, a lot of times they have an easier time relating to how these outcomes come from sports. So when we enroll young people into soccer, youth soccer, for instance, we’re not expecting them to come out and be Reynaldo. That wasn’t the reason we put them in soccer, right? We put them in soccer because we know that it will develop them physically, mentally. They’ll be able to collaborate. They’ll understand that sometimes we win, sometimes we lose. We know that these skills and these outcomes come from sports, right? What’s really special about performing arts is you get all of those. But the difference between performing arts in the soccer field is if you’re struggling at home, you have an opportunity to share that feeling in an art space. If there’s conflict or trauma, a lot of times the characters that we embody have had those same experiences, so it provides a catharsis, a place to process those feelings and to normalize those feelings and to be supported in those feelings so that you can move forward in life and realize that, yes, this happened to me, but no, this isn’t who I am. This is a part of my story. It’s not the story.

Carol Cox:
Do any people come to mind that you worked with and you can, you know, uh, composite them and not reveal any identifying details, but anyone come to mind where you really seen a transformation as a result of working with the Central Florida?

Theresa Smith-Levin:
It’s I mean, it’s countless. Quite honestly, the what we measure through our programs isn’t a change in musical skill. It is changes in confidence. It’s changes in the belief that you can overcome something that gives you fear. It’s the belief that others care about you. Those three changes change the trajectory of a whole life. So just to be able to encapsulate truly countless hundreds of of people that I’ve encountered in that regard, um, the work that we do at Pace Center for girls is really important, near and dear to my heart pace Center for girls, and it’s here in Orange County, but I believe they have chapters across the country. Pace is an alternative school for young women who find themselves in crisis from middle school to high school. So whether that is a trauma, whether that’s abuse in the home, whether that’s a failure to thrive in their school setting can be any of those those things that are going on for this young person. They’re brought into a trauma informed school setting where they’re receiving weekly counseling support. All female staff and, um, other students. And so we came in there and started offering voice because they didn’t have extracurriculars like art and being able to take these girls, many of whom were sort of shells of people when we started, and getting them to try things that they feel afraid of, right. Kind of crazy. Like I might be having them do like vocal sirens or like woo woo woo weird things that that makes them feel like embarrassed, right? But they feel embarrassed together. And then we normalize that, taking risks and being silly and putting ourselves out there. And then at the end of it, it’s all through this filter of, if I can learn to use my voice for singing, I can learn to use my voice to advocate for myself and the things that I believe in and others. And that’s so important if we’re going to transform communities, that we’re able to use our voice to advocate for what we believe in.

Carol Cox:
And Theresa, thinking about yourself or even some even adults that you know, much less young people, where do you find? And this is a challenge, I know for me and for so many of us where we we feel like we can’t advocate for ourselves or we stop, you know, we can’t quite put ourselves out there and maybe the way that we want to.

Theresa Smith-Levin:
So it’s interesting. I am a put myself out there kind of gal, and I just am and I feel like. But but I want to caveat that with I wasn’t always I wasn’t that person growing up. I don’t even think I was that person in high school. Um, but I’ve grown into that person, and I know that my art study has helped empower me in that way. What I am not great about doing is holding boundaries and space for myself. I am the first one to get in line to protect others, to stand up for others. But I am not as skilled in doing it for myself. And I think that a lot of women find themselves in that position. We are nurturers. We are protectors. We are mothers, we are sisters, we are friends, and we’re really wonderful about showing up for those people. Not great about showing up for ourselves. But if we’re not showing up for ourselves, we eventually are going to hit the bottom of that cup and we’re not going to be able to show up for anyone else either. So being able to again put our own air mask on so that we can continue to serve others.

Carol Cox:
Absolutely. And that’s why I’m such a big advocate for women’s community, like women’s support circles, because then even though, as you said, like by nature and nurture, we tend to care for others, but if we’re in a tight circle with other women, then inevitably they’re going to care for us while we’re caring for them.

Theresa Smith-Levin:
Absolutely, absolutely. And, you know, being able to overcome the word selfish, that’s an area of growth for me. I feel like there’s not a word that sort of evokes more shame for women than selfish. And the thing is, most of us are so far from selfish that quite honestly, we need to find some more ways to be selfish, to take care of ourselves. Um, a little sidebar. One of the classes that I teach is an adult class called music for a Joyful Life for adults, and I have adults in the class anywhere from probably about 25 through 75. So we get a diverse age range there. And the first class we come in, we introduce ourselves, we talk about what we’re going to learn. One of the things that I bring up is when in life were you ever told to just pursue something because it made you happy, even to our to our elementary schoolers, we try and sort of start prepping them for you’re going to have to make a decision about college and a career path and all these things. But when did we say, just do that thing because it made you happy? And so then we look at women in their 30s and say, self care. But when were we given the tools to do that? For me, self care just feels like another thing I’m failing at. And so another.

Carol Cox:
Chore that we have to.

Theresa Smith-Levin:
It’s not like I’m not doing life right, because I don’t know if I’m self-caring well. And so being able to identify what makes me happy and then create space for that with the no other objective than just to be present and feeling that joy and that happiness, and how when we engage in those experiences, how we’re able to show up differently.

Carol Cox:
I love that, Theresa. And, you know, because we’re especially in the United States, we’re so much about productivity and making sure everything that we do leads to some productive outcome. Even our quote unquote hobbies are supposed to be productive, like you said. And so having it just for the joy of it, just because we enjoy it and it fulfills us personally, much less professionally, I think is such a great reminder. Let me ask you this, Theresa. So thinking about the people that you work with of all ages, do you after they when they’re doing their classes with you, do you have them step on stage and do they they perform like tell me a little bit about that. And and what advice do you have for listeners who are public speakers as far as stepping onto a stage and connecting with an audience? Absolutely.

Theresa Smith-Levin:
So we one of the first educational programs that we had when we were founded in 2012 was our Summer Institute, and that was in large part because when I came out of grad school, I felt like I knew how to sing very well and at the same time was woefully underprepared for a career in performance. And so I had to cultivate a lot of these holistic performing arts skills through practice, through being on stage, through doing it. And so when we started the program, I really wanted to make sure that we were incorporating those elements into the training that we were giving to young people. And one of the important steps of that is to be able to overcome fears. So on day one, when children show up at camp, they audition for us and there are kids that balk, that will not sing for me on day one. And who’s in the room for day one? Like three instructors who are going to cast them in the show. The other kids aren’t there. Or if there are, there’s just 2 or 3 that are waiting for their turn to be up next. It’s a very small group, right? And there are tears. And I’ve had children quit after day one because it was just too much. Um, I’ve never had a kid on Friday night when they have to do their solo voice recital in front of all of the parents, all of the other kids, and a packed house. I’ve never had one of those kids back down. And that’s the point, is, yes, you are afraid on Monday.

Theresa Smith-Levin:
But over the next four days we’re going to form community of support and love. We’re going to believe in you. We are going to love you through that stage, and you’re going to get up there and you’re going to do that. And when you come down, you’re going to know that you can do something that made you really afraid four days ago, something that made you cry four days ago. And so I tell parents and students, please don’t give up, because what happens is you start to build up this fear and the fear becomes greater than really what it is. And so just getting through it. Right. So before Victory Cup, as you mentioned where we met, a lot of the speakers were really worried about speaking. Here’s the thing. If you sing in front of people, speaking ain’t no thing like it’s it’s not a big deal. So I mean I was a very normal amount of like excited nerves, but I wasn’t afraid. And that is sort of the beauty of art study is those young people that we’re working with, right? Knowing that they were able to get up and sing in front of people when they go back to school in the fall and they have to give a speech in their history class. It’s not that big of a deal because guess what? They’ve been there before. They’ve done that before. They have that skill and they know that they lived through it. So truly, it’s a really wonderful playground to develop life skills that are going to serve you in any capacity.

Theresa Smith-Levin:
To your public speakers, I would say that we need to normalize being nervous. You’re going to feel afraid. Your heart is going to race. Your breath is going to speed up. There are lots of techniques, tips and tricks to get around that, but your body doesn’t know the difference between a actual physical threat and an emotional fear threat. Your body doesn’t know. Our evolution hasn’t caught up with that. So your body is doing what your body is meant to do, which is to keep you alive and help you avoid situations where you might die and it doesn’t know that you’re not going to get up on that stage and die. It doesn’t know because it hasn’t done it yet. So we have to honor that response because thank you. Thank you, body, for wanting me to live. I’m very thankful for that. But we need to have enough practice to know I am able to survive this. Because when you start to fight that reaction, then you’re making your issue far more complex because you’re nervous and then you’re upset at yourself being nervous and look at what your body is doing, and then you’re having shame responses, because why can’t I just get over this? And. No. You’re nervous. Your body’s reacting to that super duper normal. Okay, what are the tools that we have to overcome that and be able to deliver what we have prepared in a way that’s authentic?

Carol Cox:
Yeah, that is exactly the same advice that I give to myself in my own self-talk, and that I give to the listeners and the clients, is to not resist what’s normal, but instead to work with it and and to, like you said, find the tools and practices that are going to help you to turn those nerves into excitement instead of paralysis.

Theresa Smith-Levin:
Right? Absolutely. It’s a fight, flight or freeze response. And so I can tell a lot about a person by how they respond when I try and make them sing. Do they end up pushing and overexerting? That’s what I do. I’m a fighter. Do they just freeze up and like they they just are not able to move? Or do they sing really quiet and it’s a lot less than it would normally be. They’re they’re a runaway or they’re not leaning into their voice fully and so, um, honoring that wherever you are and developing the skills that you need to be able to mitigate those really natural responses.

Carol Cox:
So a couple things come to mind. I want to get back to the Victory Cup story as that before that, when you talked about the with the kids in the summer camp and they arrive on Monday and then they have to perform on Friday and even though they’re afraid or, you know, maybe they’re embarrassed at initially. So when we do our in-person speaking workshops, we always have the women we work with do improv games with us.

Theresa Smith-Levin:
Yes.

Carol Cox:
Right. Improv because you’re gonna feel silly. You’re gonna feel embarrassed. You’re gonna feel like you’re not doing it well, but is the best thing, as I always say, to get out of our heads because it’s high achieving women. We spend so much time on our heads, we forget we have bodies and as speakers, as performers, our bodies are such an essential element to our performance and to connecting with our audiences. And so and even though they they dread it going in, they all end up loving it and realizing how impactful it is.

Theresa Smith-Levin:
Oh, I love improv like it is a great. I send people here in, um, Central Florida. We have a wonderful place called Sak Comedy Lab. Great place to take improv classes. And um, I actually work a lot with leadership Winter Park and one of my good friends, Chelsea Hyland, comes in and teaches a workshop for them. I teach about finding your voice. She teaches about, uh, improv as a business leader. Right. But we do it all the time. We just do it in a different way. You find yourself in a situation that you didn’t expect for your business and your professional career, and you have to respond and you have to respond quickly. You have to be able to trust your gut. In so many ways, I see women getting themselves in trouble because we second guess what we know you know what to do. But then we look to others and we questioned whether that’s right. No, you don’t get that that, um, I don’t want to say opportunity because it’s not it really hinders you. You don’t have that available to you in improv. You just need to react, which means you need to be present enough listening enough to be able to respond authentically without first judging the validity of your response.

Carol Cox:
And and exactly, Theresa, that is so well said. And I did take the improv class at Sak Comedy Lab and it was fantastic. I always say I have a love hate relationship with improv because I love it, but yet I hate it because I can’t master it. I like to master things, but there’s.

Theresa Smith-Levin:
No mastering it. No, there’s no mastering it, and there’s no mastering singing. Yeah. So so I have an unfair advantage in this in that I did not. So I met my mentor, who I feel like really had the greatest impact on my life, uh, when I was 22. But that means I’d been singing pretty seriously for a while before that. And one of the things that she taught me, and I think is so essential in a great skill for everybody to embrace, is you can’t do two things at once. We talk about multitasking. You’re not really doing two things at once, which you are doing is very quickly changing the channel, but you’re never on two channels at the same time. So if you’re going to be singing really well in your body, in your technique, present in the moment, and then what? Acting to you don’t have space in there to be deciding whether or not you think it’s good, you can’t do it. And not only that, you don’t know what you sound like when you sing. And so the first thing I teach students and I teach classes is stop listening to yourself when you sing, sing. Super counterintuitive, right? But I guarantee you and your listeners have had the experience where you hear yourself in a recording and you go, oh my gosh, that’s not what my voice sounds like. Yes, it is. And if you’re trying to adjust it and decide whether it’s good based on false data because you don’t know what it sounds like, it’s like doing a science experiment with false data and thinking you’re going to get the right outcome. It’s not going to happen. So you have to treat it as a total separate entity from the sound and get so present. In the sensation in your body, in the act of doing so that you can create the most authentic, open, beautiful sound.

Carol Cox:
I love that, Theresa. That’s such a great point. If you’re doing the thing, you can’t also be worrying about how you’re doing it.

Theresa Smith-Levin:
No, because you’re always behind. You’ve done it, now you’re judging it, but you’re still doing it, right. You’re still singing. So then you’re not present in that moment because you’re still back here deciding whether or not that was good. You can’t do it. Yes. And in life. Yes. Right, right.

Carol Cox:
Yes. Okay. So let me so related to singing and improv and speaking and all these things we’ve been talking about. The other thing that I encourage our clients and our listeners is to make speaking a two way conversation with the audience. And I don’t literally mean having the audience say things out loud. Of course they could. But but as a speaker, you feed off the energy of the audience and you have to notice the energy of the audience, you know, are they up? Are they lagging? And they’re feeding off the energy of you? So how does that work for you as a performer, as a singer?

Theresa Smith-Levin:
So I have an unfair advantage here too. I’m an.

Theresa Smith-Levin:
Empath. I have been for my whole life and actually I had to, as I grow up, develop skills to sort of protect myself from feeling everybody’s feeling so strongly. Because when I walk in a room, I know exactly how everyone feels, but then being able to go, okay, that’s how they feel. But that’s not my responsibility as a performer. It’s a great skill to have is to be able to feel how people are responding to you in those moments. And, um, I’ll share another story. I did a show called Save Me Dolly Parton in, uh. I did it a couple times. I did it in 2017, and then again in 2019. I toured it in Indianapolis Fringe Festival when I was 37 weeks pregnant. I don’t know what I was thinking, but I did that. I did a thing. And so, um, anyways, it was a monologue show, like it was just me and there was no music. I wasn’t singing, it was me speaking on stage for 50 minutes without interruption. And so what was interesting about that experience is each show was different because it had to be different. What one audience responded to was going to be different from another. And if the whole point of theater is to have a shared human experience, I have a responsibility as a performer to leave space for their response to what I’m giving them. If I’ve already decided how they should react to that, then I’ve negated the whole point of the thing. If I want to share a piece of myself and allow them to respond to that, that energy comes back to me. I need to be open to whatever their response is going to be. And so it’s starting with an openness and a framework. When you’re giving a speech, when you’re speaking or doing a workshop, starting with a framework, but being open to this group is going to respond how they need to respond to day in their given circumstances. And I am prepared enough to adjust, pivot and respond to who they need me to be for them in this moment.

Carol Cox:
So well said. Because as we know, we can give the same exact speech performance to five different groups and they’re all going to respond differently and have different energy and group dynamics even though it’s the same content.

Theresa Smith-Levin:
Oh, absolutely. Absolutely. And and there’s been so many times, um, you know, from a culturally informed place, if I’m working with a group of title one students who perhaps come from, um, more vulnerable situations, have different life experiences, the way I speak to them and engage with them, I can’t have the expectation that they’re going to respond to me the same way that students at a private school who are driving to school in Mercedes are going to respond. They have very different experiences, and I can’t expect them to just trust me to just go with me, even though I know that my intentions are good, I need to meet people where they are, and I think as speakers we have to do the same is meet your audience where they are and figure out where you do connect. Start from there, but be open to whatever that might be.

Carol Cox:
Theresa, let’s talk about storytelling. As we mentioned at the top, you had the opportunity to deliver a 2.5 minute story about yourself and Central Florida vocal arts. At the breakfast that we attended. What was it like to put that story together? What insights do you have to share with listeners as far as thinking about stories and using stories to connect with their audience?

Theresa Smith-Levin:
Uh, so what.

Theresa Smith-Levin:
I’ll say is it was very vulnerable and, um, in a way that when I started this process, I didn’t imagine it was going to be again. I’ve done a lot of public speaking. I perform in front of people very often, and even though I. Breach vulnerability because I think there’s nothing more important. At the same time, I don’t think that I always show up as vulnerably as I could, right? As a professional woman, as, um, a woman, sort of with a public profile. We all sort of have a like, this is how I want to be perceived. I think we do that in an authentic way. We decide on what our values are. We do. There’s nothing wrong with that, right? But we all also have our soft, squishy parts. The parts of ourselves where that are, that are still, um, have hurts underneath them. And so one of the things that I think I just lucked out on big time is I picked the two right people to be a part of that process with me. So on storytelling day, we so three people from each nonprofit were involved in this whole process. And so I had brought, um, my director of productions, her name is Danielle Zice, and she actually is one of the leaders of Story Storytellers Club. So a whole club. And I was like, okay, she’s definitely needs to be here with me. She’s going to help hold me accountable and push me to the next level.

Theresa Smith-Levin:
And then one of my board members, Molly Uska, who had founded her own nonprofit and whose kids had gone through our programs. And so I knew she really had a deep understanding of the work that we did. And I am so glad those were the two people that I brought, because they would not let me get away from that vulnerability. I would be like, oh, well, I want to talk about this kid and this experience. They’re like, nope. I was like, well, what if we went in this angle? And nope. And like, I just kept my feeling so frustrated and like, vulnerable and like it became clear probably by 3:00 on this, like eight hour day, like, it’s gonna have to be me. I’m gonna have to talk about me. And I really didn’t want to. Um, and so that was really scary. But I was really proud of that. And I, you know, as much as I wanted to shy away from it, I also thought, like. If I want to pave the way for somebody behind me, I’ve got to be willing to do this. And I’m not doing this for myself. I’m doing this for others. So we’re just going to say it. We’re going to put it out there and we’re going to be really vulnerable, really raw, really open.

Carol Cox:
And it was. And, you know, as they say, vulnerability is contagious. And I feel like when we step up and are vulnerable with our own stories and our own experiences, it gives permission to those who are listening to do the same, you know, as appropriate and as they feel ready to do so.

Theresa Smith-Levin:
Absolutely. I 100% agree. And that’s what I had to say to myself is think of your daughter. Think of your sister, think of your friends. What permission do you want to give to them? And so that was something that helped me sort of stay the course, but it was really scary.

Carol Cox:
Well, again.

Carol Cox:
You did an amazing job. And I was so inspired by like I felt it, you know, I felt it as you were sharing and I mean, all the nonprofits did an incredible job with their stories, but I really I really resonated with yours. So, Theresa, for those of for listeners who are in the Central Florida area, I highly encourage you to check out the Central Florida Vocal Arts and all of the amazing performances that they have going on. For listeners who don’t live in Central Florida, what’s the best way for them to find organizations like yours in their area?

Theresa Smith-Levin:
So that’s really interesting, I so GuideStar is a wonderful resource here in Central Florida. We have something called the Central Florida Foundation. And when you go to their website, they have something called a nonprofit search. And you can type in what areas of interest you have. So let’s say that’s animal welfare. You would type in animal welfare and it would populate any of the organizations that are doing work in your area that focus on animal welfare. And what I would say to all of your listeners is all nonprofits need funding and they need volunteer support. All of them, all of them. We need help because we’re trying to fight against the inequities and the systems that are causing harm to people. And I truly believe that most people want the world to be a safe, kind place. They just don’t know how to start. So finding what you care about and finding the people that are doing the work, the helpers, and reaching out to say, can I volunteer? What do you need? Are there any in-kind services that I would be able to offer, or can I make a donation? Because the reality is that it costs money to get people doing the work and keep the lights on. Um, but GuideStar is a national service that is similar. It’s not quite as in depth as Central Florida Foundation, but if you go to GuideStar, you can find all the reputable nonprofits that are in your area. You can keyword search in a similar way, and those profiles will help you see there are 990 financial filings. You’ll be able to see that this is a reputable company, what their programs are and what their needs are. So guidestar.org, I believe, and you could look up those that are in the area doing the work that you’re passionate about.

Carol Cox:
Fantastic. I’ll make sure to include a link there and to your website as well as your LinkedIn profile in the show notes. So listeners can connect with all of those. Theresa, thank you so much for coming on the podcast. I have so enjoyed our conversation. I appreciate all of your valuable insights. And again, thank you so much for finding and using your voice and impacting so many people like you have.

Theresa Smith-Levin:
Yes. Thank you so much. Thank you for having me, Carol. Thank you everyone for watching. It’s really been a pleasure.

Carol Cox:
Wasn’t that a fun conversation? Thank you again to Theresa for coming on the podcast. If you would like to learn what your speaker archetype is, I’ve identified four different ones and you can take our free quiz, get your result, and get recommendations not only on how to add to your natural speaking and communication style, but really how to amplify what your natural strengths are. You can take the quiz again, it’s entirely free, just takes a few minutes as speaking your brand.com slash quiz. Again, that’s speaking your Brand.com slash quiz. We’re continuing our series all around, inspiring you to use your voice with the episodes we have coming up, so make sure to hit follow in your podcast app so you don’t miss any of our future episodes. Until next time, thanks for listening.

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