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Lauren Schultes

When Lauren Schultes, B.Mus. 2011, talks about the journey she took at Carolina to span the distance between her study of music and business, she means it in a literal sense. She really did have to go a long way.

Hill Hall and the McColl Building, respective homes of the UNC-Chapel Hill Department of Music and the UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School, sit on opposite ends of campus – a 1.3-mile walk or 20 minutes on the U Bus if you time it just right. As a double major in music and business, Schultes was often in a hurry when she made the trip.

“It could be tight getting from one class to the other,” Schultes said. “I spent a whole lot of time and took a whole lot of steps between the two.”

As a metaphor, however, the journey was not nearly as far as one might expect. Schultes found both fields required a blend of technical mastery and precision with creativity and emotional intelligence.

“Music requires discipline and preparation, and then you have to access that magical part of yourself to connect with an audience,” Schultes said. “It’s the same thing with business. You have to take care of all the tactical details, and you also have to create a connection with an audience of customers.”

At Carolina, Schultes was part of the first class of Kenan Music Scholars, a four-year, full-tuition scholarship program for music majors that offers mentorship, travel and enrichment programs. Honing her abilities as a singer meant Schultes would spend hours in the basement of Hill Hall, poring over musical scores and trying to marry a composer’s ideas with her own performance style.

Lauren Schultes and Tom Kenan
Schultes with Tom Kenan in 2011.

“That’s the most challenging and the most rewarding part of it,” Schultes said. “Especially with voice, where the instrument is yourself. You are exploring your identity as a musician, and you have to bare your soul when you perform.”

She immersed herself in opportunities that the Kenan Music Scholars program offered, including studying in Italy and at the Royal Academy of Music in London. Kenan Music Scholars often meet renowned performers visiting campus, and Schultes said she will never forget being seated next to Harry Belafonte at a dinner before he performed at Memorial Hall.

Schultes remembers the opportunities she had to meet Thomas S. Kenan III ’59, trustee of the William R. Kenan Jr. Charitable Trust, which endowed the scholarship program. Kenan was recently awarded the Lux Libertas Philanthropy Award, Carolina’s highest honor in recognition of exceptional service in private philanthropy.

“I think about the interactions I had with him, and I think about everything he has done to support the arts and business and beyond,” Schultes said. “His kindness and generosity are what stick with me and, as a musician and a person, it makes you want to accomplish even more.”

Inspired by the career of her mother, an economics professor, Schultes knew that she also wanted to study business. She completed prerequisites for UNC Kenan-Flagler’s undergraduate business program and was admitted before her junior year.

“I had always been interested in sales and marketing as the most performance-friendly and creative parts of business,” Schultes said. “I also wanted to pursue something where I am interacting with people and building relationships.”

An internship program with Procter & Gamble turned into a full-time job after graduation and launched Schultes into a sales career. She now lives in Boston and is region manager for Bush Brothers & Company, managing Ahold Delhaize grocery store accounts on the East Coast.

She says that both her business degree and her training as a musical performer have been invaluable for her career.

“I’ve learned that there is discipline in the planning and preparation for every sales meeting, and then you have to leave space for whatever happens,” Schultes said. “Working with a customer to find solutions can be very much like performing with an accompanist you’ve never rehearsed with. You have to gel with each other quickly and work together to create the best performance you can.”

Having launched a successful sales career, Schultes recently rekindled her performance singing, even taking lessons with Kenan Music Scholar alumna Emily Siar ’14, now a voice instructor at the Boston Conservatory at Berklee. Schultes was cast in the world premiere of a musical adaptation of “The Great Gatsby” and sings at cabaret venues in the Boston area.

“I’ve built a wonderful career, and it’s great to be back to performing more,” Schultes said. “I can focus on music that makes me happiest and that has meaning for me.”

Written by Drew Guiteras
Top photo by Nile Scott Studios

View the original feature story on Carolina Stories’ website.

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