Most of us love Black music. But who knew there’s an entire career in studying, researching and sharing our favorite jams? Fredara Mareva Hadley is a jazz professor and researcher at Oberlin College and also started her own company providing music history tours in New York City. See her story and success secrets. 

Name: Fredara Mareva Hadley

Title: Jazz studies professor at Oberlin College & founder of Jooksi

Age: 34

Hometown: West Palm Beach, FL

Location: New York, NY


The gig: The best thing about my job is that I spend most of my waking hours thinking about the thing that interests me most: black music. As an ethnomusicologist, I teach students about Black music and with my company, Jooksi, I travel with groups around New York City and let them experience the history and present of Black music.

The journey: After a failed career as a banker, I decided to follow my curiosity and that ultimately led me to ethnomusicology.

Best time-saving advice: “Don’t let people waste your time.”

Secret power: I am curious about EVERYTHING, so I’ll watch a documentary or read about literally everything. I just watched a documentary on German Lipizzaner Stallions. Often all the random information I’ve shoved in my brain ends up saving the day.

Her Biggest Lesson Learned: Not learning to ask for help sooner. It’s important to realize that you can’t (and shouldn’t try) to figure out everything on your own. I sucked it up and allowed myself to be vulnerable with people that I trust. I let people who knew more than me help me out!

Proudest accomplishment: I contributed some research to the documentary that’s shown at the African Burial Ground Museum here in New York. There aren’t enough words to express how I felt to play a tiny part in the sharing of that story. The African Burial Ground is my sacred space in this city.

Confession of a Black woman in business: My challenges as a Black woman are people underestimating who I am, what I’m capable of, and where I’ve been in life. Sometimes people don’t expect much of you, but that’s their problem, not mine.

Her tech must-haves: My Macbook Air goes everywhere I go. I’m a professor and researcher, so an iPad isn’t robust enough for me and a MacBook pro is heavy as a brick. On my iPhone my life runs on Spotify, Siri, Evernote, Google Maps, the United Airlines app and Passbook.

Breakfast of champions: Lately it’s always the same. Kashi Blueberry Clusters + Skim Milk.

Her beauty bag: Mac finishing powder, Nars Manhunt, Carmex, lotion, and a brush.

Student Loan Status: Ugh. I plan for the day when I can write a check and pay off the balance.

Network Tip: Talk to people and let them know what you’re working on. Not just professional contacts, but your family and friends. They may know of people or opportunities that can help you. We know our friend is a lawyer or business owner but not what they really do. We hold the key to each other’s next steps!

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