We had the good fortune of connecting with Monica Emery and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Monica, how does your business help the community?
The Center for World Music (CWM) creates exciting opportunities in San Diego to explore the world’s cultures through music, dance, and other performing arts traditions.
We partner with institutions across San Diego to foster greater cross-cultural understanding through the world’s performing arts. We connect exceptional musicians and dancers representing long-held ethnic traditions with audiences of all ages. CWM teaching and performing artists share their life’s creative passions in K-12 schools, cultural institutions, and communities across the region.
Unlike other arts presenters, we focus on in-depth encounters that draw back the performance curtain and reveal the cultural roots and meaning shared through the artform. Our goal is to move beyond spectacle to curiosity and understanding.
What we do is important because representation matters. The inclusion of culturally rich and varied music and dance from across the globe reflects the region’s tapestry of ethnic communities.
The Center for World Music elevates San Diego as a culturally vibrant destination against the backdrop of sun-drenched beaches and rugged boulder-studded mountains.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
When I reflect on my journey, I imagine my experience similar to that of ancient Polynesian wayfinders who explored the Pacific Ocean on boats.
I cast off with a distant destination in mind — a fulfilling career serving my community and improving the lives of others. I brought with me what I have learned, what I love, and my early experiences playing music.
I’m lucky to have had varied professional experiences. Most profound were interning at United Nations Headquarters, eventually moving to Japan, and opening a small business while teaching violin. On my return to the US, I volunteered for years with the Smithsonian Folklife Festival and worked for two state universities. Each job I held was like an island respite, where I added to my collection of skills, experiences, and insights.
While my journey was winding, it brought me to the Center for World Music, where I have the honor and joy of sharing the richness of the world’s performing arts with others.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
There is so much to do.
I’d start with a tour of Chicano Park to take in the murals and history of San Diego, and then we’d check out what Bread and Salt has to offer in its galleries. I’d drop by Mingei International Museum for the newest exhibit and a light lunch at Artifact @ Mingei. I’d wander down to the Palm Canyon Trail next to Alcazar parking lot to see the giant outstretched roots of the Moreton Bay Fig. We’d head to Panama 66 at The San Diego Museum of Art for a drink and live music in the sculpture garden.
To experience the natural beauty of San Diego, I’d start at the Torrey Pines Natural Reserve for the ocean view and a hike down to the beach. We’d drive south to Torrey Pines Glider Port to see the parasailers, take in the ocean breeze, and get a bite at Bella Vista Social Club & Caffe or Caroline’s Seaside Cafe in La Jolla.
On another day, we’d rent a stand-up paddleboard and explore the calm waters of Mission Bay or the reserve at La Jolla Cove.
And if we were lucky to get the timing right, I’d bring my friends to what I consider a hidden treasure of San Diego, Queen Califia’s Magic Circle in Escondido.
Also on the itinerary would be a show at the Casbah or Belly Up Tavern, a drink at Raised by Wolves, and Tijuana-style tacos at Tacos El Gordo.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
I believe we are all connected and help each other on our journey through life. No matter how long or short a person’s role is in your life, they shape your view of the world. For this reason, I shout out to Tom Johnston-O’Neill for helping me plug into San Diego and opening the door to my current position as executive director at the Center for World Music. I’d also like to recognize those friends and colleagues whose conversations fed my soul and brought creativity, light, and laughter into my personal and professional life. And, of course, my husband and son for being my inspiration and anchor.