Jennie Walker is a recording artist, fundraising consultant and line producer. She lives in New York City, New York, United States.
DS: What are the most memorable years of your life and what happened to make them so memorable?
Jennie Walker: I have fond memories of my teenage years and early 20s, when I was writing original songs with my mother, performing at Open mic nights, attending professional music conferences around Atlanta, GA and Nashville, TN and learning about the music business. Those years were filled with such promise, and I was running around like a big sponge trying to figure out how to have a career in music. These were not the typical activities of a teenager, and that set me apart. The last 12 months has been staggering after winning the British Airways Face of Opportunity contest with my small business pitch around my album, “Night Flight to London” and then meeting Michele Mitchell, the founder of Film At Eleven in London, also a winner, where I am now currently working in the documentary film world for the first time. My life has changed dramatically. I could not have dreamed up a better way to use my years of fundraising in such a compelling industry.
I am wearing many hats, including Line Producer and Fundraising Coordinator on our newest film, “Haiti Where Did The Money Go?” which shines a light on how donor money is raised and used on the ground during disasters by NGOs and its effectiveness.
DS: How would you best describe yourself?
Jennie Walker: I would describe myself as “a southern bell that has a loud ring” I am still figuring out who I am, because in spite of this amazing upbringing by my mother from Georgia, to be a “lady” and contribute to society and the world I live in, I am my own person. I am a bit too outspoken to be considered “lady like” in the way I was raised to be. After having lost my mother 3 years ago, I find myself trying harder to be the person she wanted me to be. One day I hope to live up to her expectations. More lady-like, less bluntness! The last meeting of the DAR in New York I attended was a big reminder of her grace and elegance. I finally fully appreciate what she represented and what she wanted for me.
DS: What are the must-haves in your daily wardrobe?
Jennie Walker: I have an 11 year old vintage Louis Vuitton backpack which I use to carry around my laptop in New York, and I’ve had it re-leathered 3 times. I can’t seem to stop using it! My friends are sick of it! It is practical for New York, where I don’t have a car and have to take with me things I need. My other must have is the color black! From head to toe, I am all black all the time. In New York, it is like a uniform, but I have actually been wearing black since the 1980s. The year I dropped the preppy frogs, turtles, pinks, greens, monograms and grosgrain ribbons for something more adult was 1981.
DS: Who do people tell you you look like?
Jennie Walker: Over the years, I’ve gotten Charlene Tilton, Beverly Di Angelo and my mother (which is my favorite).
DS: How did you end-up being a recording artist?
Jennie Walker: My mother was very musical and she was singing to me in the womb! I came out with an ear and love of music and was surrounded by it pretty much daily. My mother exposed me to things like opera, tennis, horseback riding, softball, but it was the music that really stuck with me. As a child, I took piano lessons and sang in an all girls choir. That early love of music and, quite frankly, the ability to gain praise from my parents and set myself apart as a child in a large family and a child constantly moving in a military family, the music found a solid place in my life. It helped me to fit in sooner and make friends faster when I moved to a new school.
DS: Can you tell us more about your job?
Jennie Walker: I am currently working with Film At Eleven, a media company in Brooklyn, NY that creates web series and documentary films. I am wearing many hats, including Line Producer and Fundraising Coordinator on our newest film, “Haiti Where Did The Money Go?” which shines a light on how donor money is raised and used on the ground during disasters by NGOs and its effectiveness. The film currently is airing nationally on PBS stations around the country. I am also the media liaison for the company and work on business development. Since I am a veteran fundraising consultant, it was exciting to use my skills in the context of helping to raise funds in the documentary film world. During my off time, I am working on my music career, through my record label, JennieGirl™ Music, promoting my album, “Night Flight to London,” and booking performances in New York City and overseas.
“Which song on my album do you believe should be the next single? ”
Participate and answer Jennie Walker's question on The Wall below.
DS: Let's talk more about you and your tastes. Any hobbies? What do you like to do in your free time? Any thing you like and recommend?
Jennie Walker: I really enjoy spending time with friends in New York City and, when one or more of us has money to spend, we love to go shopping! There are more discount shops, consignment and charity shops than you can shake a stick at! I love the museums in the city, and there are some amazing restaurants. But my all time favorite is spending time in Central Park. It is the real jewel in the city. I love to travel internationally. I’ve spent a good amount of time in London, and I have my eyes set on a trip to Tokyo, Japan in the near future.
DS: What is a typical week for Jennie Walker?
Jennie Walker: During a typical week I commute from Manhattan to Brooklyn to the offices of Film At Eleven, where intense days are filled with the work of the company. In a single day, I might set media interviews, finalize work contracts, meet with potential media partners, give feedback during viewings of rough cuts, organize a film screening, participate in strategy sessions for the company, liaise with the firm’s attorney, work with our graphic designer, work with our social media consultant, and send out a Tweet or two. After work is usually when I can do other things, like have drinks with friends or colleagues, have a voice lesson, rehearse with my guitar player, workout, do errands and, oh yes, even sing!
DS: Some quick questions: What is the first thing you do in the morning?
Jennie Walker: I check Google analytics on my website and I check my personal and work e-mail and Facebook. And, I do all this before my first cup of tea!
Simon - Jennie Walker
DS: What is your favorite restaurant in New York City?
Jennie Walker: My favorite restaurant recently closed. It was an Italian restaurant named Ralph’s in Hell’s Kitchen. It was great food, great prices and the service was always warm and wonderful. It was very low key. I usually ordered the Fettuccini Alfredo! What drew me to the restaurant was it just felt good to be there and it was in my neighborhood. Everyone I ever took there loved the food. Sometimes, groups of us who loved the restaurant would talk over dinner about why it was so great to be there. We would be scratching our heads, because the table wear was modest as was the décor. We decided the great food, the great service and the ambiance with the great prices was the key. A sign outside says it’s under renovation, but it’s been over a year now, so I’m not holding my breath for it to reopen.
DS: What is your favorite song today? Of all time?
Jennie Walker: I really like Adele’s “Turning Tables” right now. I performed it at my most recent show in New York City, in between all my originals. There exist too many amazing songs to pick one favorite. However, I think “To Dream The Impossible Dream” really hits a cord with me, as it captures the space between our dreams and our reality, in an uplifting and optimistic yet poignant way, like no other song I have heard. That song makes me want to work harder. It inspires me, and it makes me feel like my dreams are within reach.
DS: What is your favorite "drug"?
Jennie Walker: I love creating something. I love building something. And, most of all, I love scratching things off my “to-do” list! There is something really satisfying about completing a job or getting something organized. This is one reason I love being a Line Producer so much, it is just a constant list of to-do items! I am great with details and this job is chock full of those. When it comes to my music, I get high every time I get an opportunity to talk about my music on the air or in an interview and of course when I perform. I feel like I was able to take this childhood hobby and finally turn it into a professional situation. My family has a very different measuring stick as in “show me the money” but for me, I have such personal satisfaction in having put out my own album on my own label and have been able to get international recognition in the process as well as 6 months of in-flight audio placement on British Airways. Not bad for an album out only since October 2011. I’m really just getting started.
The photo shoot
DS: What is in store for you? Any key projects for the next months? Anything you want to share? Can our readers help you with anything?
Jennie Walker: Right now I’m working on promotion for my album, ”Night Flight to London” so if your readers know of any outlets for getting the word out about my music, I’m all ears! From terrestrial to Internet radio, feature articles to blogs, TV, and social media, I’m working in all areas to raise awareness for the album. In addition, I am pitching the songs on the album for film and TV placement. With the Olympics coming to London in 2012, I have been working to draw attention to the song “Night Flight to London” since everybody and their brother will be heading to London as well as the inspiring song “It’s Our Time”, which reflects my own life-long pursuit of music and parallels the pursuits of those Olympic athletes. I have been nominated for the Shorty Awards for my social media activities in Music. Readers can VOTE for me via Twitter in those awards to help me rise higher! Right now, I’m in the top 100 out of thousands of entries in music. Readers can vote at this link:
DS: Anything you want to add to close this interview?
Jennie Walker: Right now, I am really reflecting on how I have been able to transition from traditional fundraising consulting and staff positions with President Jimmy Carter’s Carter Center, the Rockefeller-founded, Synergos Institute’s Global Philanthropist Circle, Boys & Girls Clubs of America, and others, to the documentary film world. I had been approached years ago about helping individuals raise money for films, but I could not figure out how that would translate. Understanding now, that films can be associated with a 501(c)3 non-profit fiscal sponsor, has opened my eyes to how the knowledge I have can exactly translate to the film world.
In addition, it is a bit of a mind-binder to see the non-profit industry I have dedicated my life to, through the eyes of an investigative journalist, like Michele Mitchell, founder of Film At Eleven. It has really made me look at the space between the donor “ask” with its shiny photos and detailed proposal and the reality on the ground for the very first time. One can be very sheltered from what is actually happening on the ground in the Development office of a nonprofit, depending on your role. Everybody loves a winner, and non-profits are no different. NGOs raise money based on what they have accomplished, how many people they have reached – not what cannot be done or those who fall through the cracks. But, this film has me asking myself if people would give to things that need fixing, that need reform, that need repair, or were not working, if it meant lives would be saved and suffering would be lessened. I cried when I viewed the rough cut of “Haiti: Where Did The Money Go?” That is when I realized that the gap between what is being reported by NGOs, what I thought was being done, and what is actually happening on the ground were not the same. It’s been a rude awakening.
DS: Thank you Jennie Walker
Jennie Walker: Thank you!