Being Empowered in Who You Are: An Interview with Carrie-Ann Matheson

Especially after the chaos of 2020, it’s easy to slip into a scarcity mindset where we are frantically trying to ensure that we have enough, that our clients are served well, and that we have a Plan B if everything falls apart again. However, this scarcity mindset keeps us from so much in life. Instead of having a scarcity mindset—or going to the opposite extreme and forcing ourselves to have the perspective of “Everything’s fine”—it’s important to focus on the vision we have for our lives, so we remain grounded.

Speaking of staying grounded, vocal coach, pianist, conductor, educator, and the new artistic director of the San Francisco Opera Center, Carrie-Ann Matheson, joins Elena Armijo onIn a Manner of Speakingto discuss just how to do that. These two powerhouse female leaders and musicians originally met when Elena came to Carrie-Ann for vocal coaching at the Metropolitan Opera, and they instantly connected. In this conversation, Carrie-Ann shares how she became part of the music world, the ways she has taken ownership of her gifts, the power music has to connect people, and her mission to empower others to own who they are.

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Unapologetically Carrie-Ann: On Being a Pianist, a Coach, & a Conductor

Musically talented Carrie-Ann Matheson initially became involved in music because she enjoyed connecting with her piano teacher. “That's the only reason I started playing piano,” she laughs. “I liked hanging out at her house.” Of course, Carrie-Ann also possesses a natural giftedness for piano, which led her to become a solo pianist for a while. After some time, she soon became dissatisfied due to the solitary nature of the profession, as it requires pianists to spend at least 8 hours a day practicing on their own. Carrie-Ann knew she needed an avenue where she could also connect with people.

“Through a series of amazing coincidences, I discovered that I had an aptitude for working with singers,” Carrie-Ann says. “All of those pieces came together, and I found myself in the world of opera and song. My love of literature, my love of people, and my love of music—it all came together in a really, really excellent way.”

Eventually, life led her to become a conductor, which, at first, she was very nervous about. “Because I came late to conducting, [I] was fraught with doubt… like, ‘Can I really do this? Do I know what I'm doing?’ And you're standing in front of a hundred people who are all staring at you and… you have a job to do,” she recalls. “The torture that I went through in my mind was really extreme.” However, she soon overcame her doubts with the help of performance coach, Dana Fonteneau, who instructed her to have a mission when she walked into the pit each day. What was Carrie-Ann’s mission? To bring joy to every single person around her—to be the facilitator for joy.

Certainly, joy is one of the main things that music—and those who perform and conduct it—provides. Due to COVID, many in the opera world had to go virtual in order to continue sharing music. Despite this change in medium, Carrie-Ann believes that music’s connective power will not only transcend and catalyze innovative techniques, it will also help physically bring people together. “We have got to find new ways of doing things,” she says. “The old way of doing opera with people like standing and being very proper and wearing pretty costumes and not saying anything, I don't believe that's going to work anymore.”

While Carrie-Ann is a strong proponent of innovation, she is also cautious about relying too heavily on a digital medium to replace in-person interactions. “I think we have to be careful to appreciate and develop this new side of things,” she assures, “which is necessary… and has tons of possibilities. But we need to remember that, as human beings, we need to actually physically connect with people.” Without a doubt, it will be bold, determined people like Carrie-Ann, who will create ways to intimately connect people with music and present performances through innovative mediums.

The Disruption:In the past, Carrie-Ann struggled with performance anxiety. However, she was able to overcome this when she simply understood and owned who she is: “I feel so much better and so much more able to withstand high-pressure situations because I know who I am. And who you are, no one can take that from you, no matter what kind of chaos is around you.”

Now, Carrie-Ann’s mission is to create a world where everyone is empowered and able to honestly evaluate who they are and what their gifts are. “I think what's really important is that each of us as individuals… figure out who we are and what we want and what we are best at and connect with people.”

Weekly Coaching Tip

Scarcity is defined as the state of being scarce or in short supply. It’s the idea that there isn’t enough of something. We can find scarcity in money, time, business, and love. Really, we can find it anywhere, if we’re looking for it.

The problem is, when we are stuck in a scarcity mindset, it's like being on a hamster wheel that never stops. We wake up, look at what we’ve built or where we are, and think to ourselves, “What if I lose it all tomorrow? I better have a Plan B. I better work harder today to make sure I don’t lose everything I’ve built.”

Sound familiar?

Well, one of the things you can do to get off the “hamster wheel” of scarcity is stop and ask yourself what you are afraid of losing. Simply noticing that you’re in a scarcity mindset may help release some of your anxiety.

However, sometimes, we can over-correct and only think in terms of abundance, which can end up creating more scarcity. The perspective of “Everything’s rosy and it’ll all be fine” may help for a little while, but it won’t be a long-term solution.

So, what do we do?

  1. Slow down and think about what it means to you. What does not having enough actually mean? What is it keeping you from? What are the experiences that you deeply desire, but feel you are lacking?
  2. Focus on the vision for your life or the vision for your business. What is your relationship with whatever you’re concerned about not having? For example, if it’s money, then how do you want to feel about money? What do you want your money to look like, sound like, smell like, and feel like?

We’d love to hear about the ways that you stop yourself from slipping into a scarcity mindset and establish a more balanced perspective!

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This podcast was produced by the following amazing team:

John Biethan, President of Imagine Podcasting: 

Sam De Santo, Creative Director: 

Rye Taylor, Podcast Design Strategist & Producer: 

Meg McCarley, Brand Designer & Social Media Manager: 

Raejan Noh, Content Writer: 

Aaron Boykin, Musician & Artist:https://hollatchaboykin.comand get updates about Aaron’s music via