As a part of my series about strong female leaders, I had the pleasure of interviewing Emily Schmalholz.
Emily is the Director of Special Events for the legendary Capitol Theatre in Westchester, NY and its inner sanctum bar Garcia’s. Her love of music took root during her time at Emerson College, where she studied mass communications and worked at the radio station. She went on to spend seven years as a television producer at VH1, where she continued to develop her love for live music. This passion was honed through her independent event planning company Life of the Party Productions, Grand Prix New York and the New York Botanical Garden, where Schmalholz helmed their winter events. Eventually offered the chance to test her skills at The Capitol Theatre, a combination of her love of live music and curating special event experiences, it couldn’t have been a more natural fit for this jack-of-all-trades.
Schmalholz, a born-and-raised New Yorker, now resides in Armonk, New York near The Capitol Theatre with her husband and two sons. She comes from a showbiz family, with her mother working in theatre and the arts most of her life, and continues her legacy with her work at The Cap. Schamholz has produced some of The Capitol Theatre’s largest private events and has partnered with charities like Big Brother, Big Sister and important corporations like Netflix on tailor-made events that reflect her work philosophy: love what you do, be passionate, and listen to every detail.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
After 7 years as a Television Producer for VH1 producing music series and specials, I took a work hiatus to become a Mom. I loved motherhood and enjoyed the newly found peace & quiet of the suburbs. That being said, it didn’t take long for me to want to get back to work with hopefully a more flexible work environment. A producer friend and local mom asked if I was interested in co- producing a documentary on the life of a NYC Event Planner. I found the experience fascinating and inspiring! Although, we never actually finished the documentary we clearly saw that the skill set of a Television Producer and an Event Planner are very similar. A creative thinker who can see the big picture while simultaneously coordinating hundreds of small details to create a cohesive, engaging and entertaining story or event. Soon after, she & I opened Life of The Party Productions, a boutique event planning firm based in the heart of our town of Armonk, NY producing high-end parties, bar/bat mitzvahs, weddings and charity events. In 2015, after producing hundreds of events in venues throughout the tri-state area, I was ready to bring music back in to my life and find a venue to call home! I had recently heard that one of our local event venues, the legendary Capitol Theatre had re-opened as a music venue. It was 100% clear to me that this was where I could and eventually would combine my two worlds of music & events.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?
Working in the combined world of events and music gives me the opportunity to meet so many interesting, inspiring and creative people. I’ve always been amazed at how music has an unmatched ability to unify friends, strangers and even co-workers. I had the opportunity to plan an event at The Capitol Theatre for a large music/tech company. Staff members were flown in from around the world for an all-day team-building event inspired by… music. Workshops, lectures and activities revolved around the impressive rock history of the theater and the bonding effect of song writing. The event culminated in group songwriting and then the ultimate moment of performing together on The Capitol Theatre’s legendary stage. I found it incredibly interesting to see how a musically inspired event can break down so many walls of insecurities and anxiety and bring people together who may have never seen the opportunity.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
I was planning a bat mitzvah at a venue in New Jersey and putting finishing touches on décor elements. The last item to set up before the family arrived was a large ice sculpture spelling the mitzvah girl’s name. No more than fifteen minutes before the family arrived, the table under the ice sculpture collapsed sending large pieces of the ice sculpture flying throughout the venue. Chunks of ice went flying through a wall, leaving behind an enormous hole in the entrance wall of the venue! Lesson learned: Don’t use ice sculptures!… or at the very least, triple check the strength of every table before loading it up.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
The Cap has a heart at its core that I have never experienced before. We love what we do! We believe in the brand so deeply, our passion shows through with every concert, private or corporate event. This vibe is felt by each and every concert-goer and is carried through at every event. Whether it’s an event for 20, 200 or 2000 we focus on the experience as a whole, from start to finish, every detail is thought out meticulously.
I was approached by a couple last year who were looking to plan their wedding at The Capitol Theatre. What makes this so unique, is that one of the many passions the couple shared with each other was their love for the band Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats. They weren’t looking to hire the band to play their wedding, they were specifically looking for the authentic vibe that the venue and it’s fans provide. So, we planned them an elegant pre-show party in the venue’s bar, Garcia’s with catering and an open bar. Afterwards, we brought the bride & groom inside the theater with 150 of their closest family & friends to celebrate their wedding with not just their favorite band but also 1800 passionate fans dancing along with them.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
I am really proud of the charitable work that we are involved with and how we utilize the power of music to help people. We are excited to host events for both Soul Ryders and Sunrise Day Camp this year to help raise money to support families that are sadly affected by cancer. By hosting both pre-parties before popular concerts as well as private benefit concerts we have created a more casual and inclusive alternative to the old-school country club fundraiser. This has helped to increase awareness and fund-raising for so many local and national charitable organizations.
What advice would you give to other female leaders to help their team to thrive?
My advice to other female leaders would be to motivate and inspire the best in everyone. I believe that the female balance is absolutely integral to the success of any business. We all have unique passions and talents, find those skills in each team member to promote productivity. As female leaders we have the unique quality of instinctually being multi-taskers, use it to your advantage. Be proud of your success and the success of your entire team. Don’t let anyone second guess your abilities. Positivity and strength are invaluable!
What advice would you give to other female leaders about the best way to manage a large team?
In my experience, women have incredible intuition. Use that intuition and believe it. Go with your gut and follow through. Be not just a good listener, be a great listener! You will lead more effectively when you have a full understanding of what is happening around you A team is only as a good as their leader and the leader is only as good as their team.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
Absolutely my husband Jay, my creative and life partner for almost 30 years. We have grown with each other since we were both fresh out of college. The twists and turns that our careers have taken throughout the television, music and event industries has absolutely landed me to where I am today. Together, we’ve balanced work and life while raising two amazingly confident, creative and passionate sons. Just as I was inspired by my parents to do what you love, I hope that we have successfully passed that important life lesson on to our children.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
The Capitol Theatre has provided me with a unique platform to help charitable organizations raise both awareness and funds for dozens of important causes. With each and every fundraising event we plan, I completely immerse myself in the mission and its goals. I’m grateful for that opportunity and thankful to have the ability to spread the love (and the music) to bring goodness to the world.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why?
1. Surround yourself with positivity. I have found myself in negative work environments that have affected not just my ability to stay focused and productive but my life as a whole. When you find yourself on the opposite side of the negativity it is empowering and inspiring. Positivity is contagious and essential.
2. Fear is good. Fear gives us the opportunity to overcome. It’s scary and intimidating to change careers but I am thankful that I had people around me to encourage the jump and the risk while supporting my need to explore the best work/life balance options for me.
3. Don’t feeling guilty. As a working mom, there’s a feeling of guilt that is constantly surrounding me. I truly believe now that my kids will benefit more from watching me pursue my dreams than having me home with them wishing I was.
4. You can do anything! Behind every closed door, is an open one. I truly now believe in that saying! There is no straight path to your dream job and it can be discouraging. I have taken so many twists and turns along the way that I never would have expected. I may not have known it at the time, but I have held on to little bits and pieces from each path that have made me both a better leader and person as a whole.
5. Pay attention is math class! — Budgets and spreadsheets are the basic element of every business, even the creative ones.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
If I had the opportunity to inspire a movement, it would be a movement revolving around the power of music. A movement to require daily exposure to music. Music is good for the heart, the soul, it inspires critical thinking and brings people together in a way that nothing else in this world is capable of doing. If we all had more music in our lives, I believe we would be a much happier, more productive and harmonious society.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“Let the beauty of what you love be what you do.” -Rumi, poet
We are blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂
Those who know me well, will say … of course she picked, Eddie Vedder. ☺ I’m not choosing Eddie just because I’m a fan of his music. I’m choosing him because I am consistently impressed and amazed by how he has re-invented himself through the years to remain relevant while never losing sight of what he believes in. He is an impressive advocate for so many important causes and always speaks up for those who aren’t able. Breakfast or lunch with Eddie Vedder would be fascinating and inspiring.