We had the good fortune of connecting with Fiona Chatwin and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Fiona, how has your work-life balance changed over time?
I used to think that having a good balance between work and life meant that I needed a hobby, or that I needed to be more strict about how much I work in the evenings or the weekends. But then I realized that loving my work as much as I do means that a sense of balance isn’t what is needed at all. Instead, I just wish there were more hours in the day to do all of the things I love; work/play.

I must admit, though, as the ED I am grateful I have the luxury to be able to say no when I need to and “bring it on” when I have the energy!

Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
When I moved from Melbourne, Australia to San Diego, California I thought I was going to finish my course work at UCSD and head home to prepare my dissertation from afar as I prepared vocal scores and performance opportunities while reigniting my teaching studio. It has always been my goal to perform and teach. That was in the year 2000 and wow did life take me on a ride.

It was in my first quarter at UCSD that I met my husband, a composer in the program. He wrote for sopranos and guess what, I was a soprano. We made a lot of music together and were married in 2002. By the time we graduated in June of 2006 we had overcome my scary cancer diagnosis, had a baby, started a non-profit and decided that academia was NOT our scene.

Villa Musica was quite literally “a great idea” when we offered our first program in the summer of 2006. My freshly minted Doctoral Degree was a great accomplishment but definitely did not prepare my for my role as the Executive and Artistic Director of San Diego’s first comprehensive community music center. My degree in Non-Profit leadership had just begun… and I was going to get that credential on the job.

Through trial and error and many sleepless nights, Villa Musica evolved and we started to gain some traction. More programs started, collaborations evolved and funding partnerships began to form.

Fast forward to 2021 and Villa Musica is a fiscally sustainable non-profit employing 5 full-time staff and a further 30 part-time teaching artists. We have a reputation for integrity and transparency; providing a safe and nurturing environment for anyone seeking to spread their musical wings. Our mission serves people of all ages and our programming in low income communities ensures that everyone has access to the quality music education we have become known for.

I’m proud of each aspect of my journey and especially proud of the community we have built.

Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
Day #1 – We would sit in the community park where we live in University City and enjoy the incredible trees and birds that the mature trees and greenery attract. Then we would take a hike down in Rose Canyon.

Day #2 – A walk along the beach at Black’s. After we have struggled back up the hill, we would head down into the village for Tacos at Puesto in downtown La Jolla.

Day #3 – Elfin Forest – hiking up through the forest into the flatland at the top and a picnic out near Olivenheim Dam

Day #4 – More Taco’s but this time at Salud in Logan Heights and a walk under the freeway to see the amazing murals. On the way home we could stop by Old Town and visit the historic sights.

Day #5 – Bike ride around Mission Bay (my fave 15 mile circuit) and then back to the park for a barbecue.

Day #6 – Mooch at the farmer’s market. My favorite is actually Poway, but I also like Rancho Santa Fe and Hillcrest (depending on how many people I want to be around) then off to the UTC Mall near our house for some shopping/food.

Day #7 – A hike at Torrey Pines and then if we’re feeling it, a glass of wine at Mustangs and Burros at Estancia, La Jolla (just west of UCSD campus)

Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I have to to start with a shoutout to my Mum and Dad, Dorothy and Ian. They were so important with regard to helping me nurture my musical side.

Then my favorite singing teachers: Gary May (Melbourne, Australia) and Carol Plantamura (San Diego, California) for whom I can literally thank for giving me my voice!

Next would be every board chair who has ever taken on that role for Villa Musica, I have grown so much through their guidance and patience as I learned to be an ED.

My inner circle: fierce women! Ananda, Annette, Denise, Kat, Lisa, Margaret and Sheenagh.

And last but not least, my incredible husband Jude, our daughter Imogen and our two black cats – Jake and Elwood.

Website: www.villamusica.org

Instagram: @villamusica

Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/company/villa-musica-san-diego’s-community-music-center

Twitter: @villamusicasd

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/villamusicaSDCMC

Yelp: https://www.yelp.com/biz/villa-musica-san-diego

Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/user/VillaMusicaPerforms/

Nominate Someone: ShoutoutSocal is built on recommendations and shoutouts from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you or someone you know deserves recognition please let us know here.