Next Charleston speaker

Leah Suarez

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September 22, 8:00am • Redux Contemporary Art Center • part of a series on Compassion

Our September CreativeMornings Charleston speaker Leah M. Suárez is a musician and arts entrepreneur whose primary instrument is her velvet rich voice. (Seriously, wait ‘til you hear her sing). 

Leah is a fiercely passionate individual artist inspired by collaborative energy; we couldn’t have asked for a better person to speak about “Compassion.” Her light and energy is contagious and she’s known for bringing people together through the power of music. 

In our Q&A below, get a sneak peek at what makes Leah tick, how she finds her creative inspiration, and why music and Mexico are the fuel to her fire. 

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What do you love most about what you do?

Finding and creating connection between energies and bearing witness to the experiences of current time and space. It’s magical and inspiring. 

How did you get into your field of work? Did you always know you were going to be a musician? 

It chose me. I always sang as a child, imagining myself in musical roles - hairbrush in hand - as Maria, but more so as Anita, in West Side Story or Aldonza/Dulcinea in Man of La Mancha. My most formal training was in middle school band, which lead to life-changing experiences and success in the low brass section on euphonium. I finished my college career at the College of Charleston, finding my voice in jazz. I then chose to re-connect and re-commit to my hometown city by the sea, guided by the music and the people who make it - past, present and future.  

Life handed me some pretty tough lemons in my formative years and throughout some challenging adult years. Music was my lemonade. And the reason I’m still here. I’m just a vessel.

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How do you start your day?

Literally saying “thank you for today.” My morning time is sacred and my routine ritualistic. Before anything, I’ll make my bed. A necessary tick. Afterwards, it’s a combination of incense or copal, lemon water with herbs, and a healthy dose of meditation, affirmation and prayer - mostly in silence - followed by a warm-up for my body and particularly my voice. Then, usually off for a run, walk, yoga or anywhere else I can meditate in movement. The best days begin by greeting the sun.

Tell us about your proudest moment or accomplishment. 

Embracing my Mexican heritage, claiming my Mexican citizenship, and awakening my inner chingona. August 2014, I returned to mi México for the first time in 28 years. I was 5 years old the last time I stepped foot in a country that was also my America, though one that equally made it more challenging to be in this America. My grandfather, whom I had never had the pleasure of meeting before his untimely death, visited me consistently in my dreams for years. He convinced me that something was awaiting my arrival, there, in México. I knew he was right. Two and a half years later, on the same day #45 would issue his executive order for a certain wall, I would walk into México as a proud, soul-filled, teary-eyed mexicana, no longer an extranjera (foreigner). What was awaiting me there on the other side was more than any piece of paper, more than any birth certificate, more than a government-issued identification card telling me I belonged, more than the ink of approval from a coveted rubber stamp, more than a different line at the airport, and more than another passport. It had been the discovery of my truest self, my purpose, my definition of home, and what remains to be my ever-unfolding, beautiful journey. Mi camino lindo. 

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Do you have a hidden talent? 

I’m a left-footed soccer player. I bend all the balls.

Who or what gives you creative inspiration? 

Everything and everyone. I remind myself: “Breathe where you are. Eat where you are. Love where you are. Sing where you are.” It helps me stay present and to drink in all the inspiration that this very moment has to offer.

What’s your go-to coffee order? Americano. Black. Neat.

What is your favorite place in Charleston? Sullivan’s Island

How do you unwind or destress?

Listening to/making music. Running the Cooper River Bridge (because I still can’t get used to saying Ravenel) sans music. Riding my bicycle. Immersing myself in nature, wherever I can feel exceptionally small. Sailing with my crew mates aboard Alliance. Swimming in the ocean. Particularly under moonlight. Acupuncture. Writing.

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Rapid Fire Round: 

  1. morning person or night owl? Both. Don’t do the math.
  2. summer or winter? Summer
  3. mountains or beach? Beach
  4. pancakes or waffles? Waffles. With chicken, of course.
  5. fiction or non-fiction? Non

Mark your calendars for Friday, September 22nd for Leah’s CreativeMornings Charleston talk. She’s speaking on “Compassion” and it’s sure to move, motivate, and inspire. 

Our #CMEquality speaker Adam Gorlitsky might be one of the most inspiring people we’ve ever met. At the age of 19, Adam was in a tragic car accident that left him paralyzed from the belly button down. But instead of giving up, he’s finding a way to give back. Through his organization I GOT LEGS, Adam is working to empower others in his situation and prove that walking should be a right, not a privilege. 

Get to know the man behind the exoskeleton in our Speaker Q&A: 

What do you love most about what you do? 

What I love most about what I do is that I get to incorporate all my passions into I Got Legs. At my core, I’m an athlete, filmmaker/storyteller, and social entrepreneur.  Having those three things be at the core of I Got Legs as well is a pretty special thing that not many people get to experience.

Did you always know you were going to start your own organization?

I grew up in a creative, and entrepreneurial household, so creating my own organization and blazing my own trail in life is the only way I know how to operate. It’s in my DNA.

How do you start your day? I start my day with an omelette, a shower, emails, Facebook, Instagram, more emails.

Tell us about your proudest moment or accomplishment.

I have two moments that stand out. The first one is when ReWalk (the exoskeleton manufacturer) flew down on the 10-year-anniversary of my car accident (December 30, 2015) and presented me my own exoskeleton aka The Betty Carlton. That day was the culmination of hundreds of hours selling I Got Legs T-shirts, and creating social media content that promoted my GoFund Me Campaign. 

The other moment has to be April 2, 2016 when I crossed the finish line of the Cooper River Bridge Run using my robotic exoskeleton. The 6.2 miles race took me almost 7 hours and exactly 17,932 steps to complete. Physically, it was the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life. It was my first race using my exoskeleton. I Got Legs wouldn’t be here without those two moments. I wouldn’t be the person I am today without them.

Do you have a hidden talent? Hmm…hidden talents…I can do a mean wheelie in my wheelchair ;)

Who or what gives you creative inspiration?

I’ll start with the who…anyone that has an original voice and isn’t afraid to express it in their work. I’ve been watching a lot of Gary Vaynerchuck and Mark Cuban videos lately. Now for the what…honestly, anything can inspire me, but what tends to ultimately inspire me the most is the experience something gives me. Everything I do with I Got Legs–whether it’s a speech, our ReEnabled Race and Step Tour Programs, social media, the website, t-shirts, etc–I always start with the experience I want people to have and then work backwards from there. That experience can be inspired from pretty much anything in my life. And when all else fails, I just think about the Betty Carlton. She’s the love of my life ;)  

What’s your go-to coffee order? Straight black, iced, with a touch of cream.

What is your favorite place in Charleston?

The top of the Arthur Ravenel Bridge with my Batec Mobility Handcycle Attachment

How do you unwind or destress?

A long drive in my car, a bike ride, walking in my exoskeleton, a good workout at Orangetheory.  

Rapid Fire:

  1. morning person or night owl? Night owl
  2. summer or winter? Summer
  3. mountains or beach? Beach
  4. pancakes or waffles? Red Velvet Pancackes from IHOP
  5. fiction or non-fiction? Non-Fiction

Join us on Friday, July 21st at the American Theater to hear straight from Adam himself! 

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We took a walk with our June speaker, Trey Jameson, and found out a little bit about what makes him tick. Here is a glimpse into his life…

What do you love most about what you do?

The connection with my clients. It is more than helping others. It is impacting entrepreneurs and their lives by being a constant resource, motivator, and person to lean on.

How did you get into your field of work? Did you always know you were going to be a lawyer?

Since I was five I wanted to be a lawyer and professor. And I could not tell you why. The passion for what I do came when I clerked for the Supreme Court of Uganda. I stumbled upon “bootleg” dvds and was curious as to why there were no extraterritorial laws to protect our artists. And that started my journey into intellectual property law.  I am extremely passionate about protecting artists and their creations.

How do you start your day?

For 30 minutes, I get online and read ESPN, Facebook, then Inc.com or Entrepreneur.com for five inspiring posts. Then I check my emails to wrap my mind around the work day.

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Tell us about your proudest moment or accomplishment.

My artist pro-bono program is my most rewarding work. I mentor a deserving creative in the community for six months to establish a profitable business with appropriate IP protection and serve as a business advisor once legal work is done, with no charge for legal fees. I believe your biggest imprint is being a part of the community, not the size of your wallet.

Do you have a hidden talent?

So hidden, I am not aware of it!

Who or what gives you creative inspiration?

Reading. I read business and self-help books to get my brain going. It is amazing how while reading, my mind wanders and drifts and I start having all types of new ideas that I journal. I sometimes do not remember the book, but definitely the lessons via my ideas and thoughts.

What’s your go-to coffee order?

Iced coffee. Black. Nothing it it. No, not cream. No, not sugar. Black.

What is your favorite place in Charleston?

I have a hidden spot that I will never tell its location. Have to save something for a local!

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How do you unwind or destress?

Riding through the “country” on the coast or wetlands.

RAPID FIRE ROUND:

  • morning person or night owl? Both!
  • summer or winter? summer
  • mountains or beach? Beach, though the mountains in the PacWest are a close #2.
  • pancakes or waffles? Neither
  • fiction or non-fiction? Non-fiction

Join us for Trey’s talk on SURVIVAL on June 30th, or learn more about his work at: https://www.jameson-law.com/

Meet The Head Magic Maker, Christine Osborne. With A Contagious Spirit And Enthusiasm, Christine Has Owned Wonder Works Toy Stores For 27 Years and is now sharing her Toy Industry Business Knowledge & Tips via Christine S Osborne LLC. With the uncanny ability to spot a craze and hot items before they even hit the shelves, Christine leads her team with a passion to provide children and families with the most magical toys that help develop social, mental and physical skills. Of course while inspiring fun, creativity and imagination! As the owner of Wonder Works, Christine has been an integral part of the Charleston community and toy industry for many, many years. She and Wonder Works toy stores have won countless awards and recognitions based on the business’ success, achievements and community involvement.

Cathryn Davis Zommer is the Executive Director of Enough Pie, a non-profit that uses creativity to connect and empower their community in Charleston’s Upper Peninsula.

Cathryn began her career at The Charlie Rose Show in Manhattan and spent a decade in global marketing before returning to the Carolinas in 2012. While in New York, she conceived, directed, and produced FULLY AWAKE (2007), a feature documentary film on Black Mountain College, one of America’s most legendary experiments in education and art and the birthplace of the geodesic dome and the first multimedia happening. The film has screened globally at the Tate Modern in London, MoMA in New York, and the Guggenheim in Bilbao.

Today Cathryn runs Enough Pie using tool such as creative placemaking, artistic installations and dynamic partnerships to form stronger community relationships and inspire more empowered and joyful civic engagement. Enough Pie will launch AWAKENING V: King Tide, a month long series of multiple public art installations and free events on Saturday, April 29.

Announcing the one and only Charlton Singleton representing the theme TABOO.

A native of Awendaw, SC, Charlton Singleton began his musical studies at the age of three on the piano. He would then go on to study the organ, violin, cello, and the trumpet throughout elementary, middle and high school. In 1994, he received a Bachelor of Arts in Music Performance from South Carolina State University. Since that time, he has taught music at the elementary, middle, and high school levels, as well as being an adjunct faculty member at the College of Charleston. Currently, he is the Artistic Director and Conductor of the Charleston Jazz Orchestra; an 18 piece jazz ensemble of some of the finest professional musicians in the Southeast and the resident big band in Charleston, SC. Mr. Singleton is also the organist and choir director at St. Patrick Catholic Church in Charleston, SC. In November of 2016 he was named the inaugural Artist in Residence at the recently renovated Gaillard Center in downtown Charleston.

photo by: ElizabethErvin.com

Announcing our speaker for MOMENTS!

Stanfield Gray lives at the intersection of innovation and the New South, the place where culture and the digital economy intersect to produce startup offspring. The founder of DIG SOUTH Media and DIG ICON (Innovation Conference), Stanfield’s goal is to match leading global brands with fast-growth startups, help them forge collaborative relationships and get deals done. In other words, DIG is about knowledge and networking. Held at the Charleston Gaillard Center, DIG has grown from 454 to 2000+ annual attendees and hosted more than 5000 total attendees since 2013. In 2017, DIG will welcome 100+ speakers including VOX CEO/Chair Jim Bankoff, Jet.com Chief Customer Officer Liza Landsman, DraftKings CEO Jason Robins and other thought leaders. DIG tracks focus on digital innovation in technology, business and marketing. Gray holds a BA from the South Carolina Honors College and an MA from the University of Mississippi. And, more importantly than all of the aforementioned, Stanfield is most inspired by his wife, Sunny, and their two whip-smart kids, Stella and Garrison.

Eastward Music is a Charleston, SC based music composition studio led by Alex Admiral Collier and Joshua Smoak. With a wealth of experience, the duo produces original music for a wide range of media, specializing in long and short-form documentaries, advertising, and film.

After studying film score and production at Berklee College of Music, Collier and Smoak, returned to Charleston to launch their own agency. As the sole operators of Sunday Entertainment, they have since composed a range of diverse music with notable placements including Google, Got Milk?, Honda, Nature Valley, American Express, TOMS Shoes, Hallmark, Liberty Mutual, PGA, Quiksilver, Brita, among others.

In 2013, Collier and Smoak decided to take their passion a step further and launch their studio, Eastward Music, growing their team to include both established and emerging composers, classical and jazz musicians, vocalists, and studio owners.

While successfully launching Eastward Music, Collier met Mississippi band The Weeks on a trip to Nashville. When the band visited Charleston, a brief, albeit impressive, organ performance led to Collier not only joining, but managing the band.

March 2015 brought about Eastward Music’s full-length score in Dorian Warneck’s “Color of Fire,” the intimate tale and unique perspective of Warneck’s father grappling with his post-war life after service in the German army. The score delicately, yet deliberately carries the weight of Warneck’s award-winning documentary.

Eastward Music has announced its first record release. The Holiday record is the first of many releases planned throughout the next year. Allowing Collier and Smoak to write and record outside the bounds of the commercial world, these releases bring them back to the roots of being artists and giving their compositions the freedom to be enjoyed without limits. The duo says, “of course these songs could be used commercially but we want them to be available for anyone and everyone.”

Our Speaker Charles Carmody is unlike any other. 

He is currently the Director of The Charleston Music Hall; a position he has held since 2012.  The Charleston Music Hall is a 935 seat venue that hosts over 200 events per year.  Charles created a promotions company, Murias Entertainment, in 2014 to put on smaller events throughout Charleston. He is the Music Director of Charleston Wine + Food Festival, and he co-manages the band SUSTO as well as work with other musicians and bands.  His mission is to make Charleston the greatest music city in the world, as well as create beautiful moments for people to come together.


Catch him November 18 at Rutledge Cab Co. 

Our Speaker this month is none other than Rob Bertschy, creator of the SWURFER. 

Rob Bertschy is the founder of Swurfer. Additionally he is a full-time puzzletier, barefoot adventurer, pusher of the limits, ceviche connoisseur that averages 4 hours of sleep per night. He believes all doors should be pulled instead of pushed, and that the word impossible shouldn’t be in the dictionary.

We will have the honor to hear about the “magic” he has seen along the way to making his dream into reality.

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