Dr. Sally Podrebarac is a professional musician and highly accomplished soloist currently residing in Fort Worth, Texas. After completing a master’s program at Northwestern University, Dr. Podrebarac obtained her doctorate from Texas Tech (TTU). In addition to being a manager at one of the country’s leading horn shops, she has also appeared with several nationally respected orchestras including the Santa Fe Symphony, New Mexico Philharmonic, and Amarillo Symphony.
Dr. Sally Podrebarac conducts music classes through Tarrant County College as well as her private studio. Together with her husband, she also runs a company named Yellow Door Print, which provides musicians the opportunity to be published in a variety of peer-reviewed journals.
What do you love most about the industry you are in?
I like helping my students. I like seeing them grow and achieve and gain confidence. It’s somewhat the same thing with my work at Houghton Horns. I enjoy helping customers find the right instrument because there’s a moment where it just clicks for them and you can see that they’re really excited and their choice is going to be a good fit for them.
What keeps you motivated?
My students keep me motivated. They’re really what keeps me going. They’re counting on me to help them with a piece, and of course I can do that as a music teacher, but I think they’re also counting on me to be an advocate for them and help make music be a positive thing in their lives. Whether or not they actually get better at playing their instrument isn’t the primary goal; it motivates me to help them develop confidence and self-esteem as well as getting better on the instrument. Most importantly, I love to see their growth as a person. Anytime I can help them do that, it really gets me excited and keeps me moving.
How do you motivate others?
I motivate others by leading by example and part of that is simply from doing my job well. When I do my job well and put forth the effort, they see that, and it helps motivate them to do the same. I think the other part of motivating others is being open about my struggles, sharing how I got out of school with my doctorate, but I didn’t get a full-time job right away, just being honest with people and not putting on airs. I don’t pretend that I’m the best horn player. I don’t pretend that playing the horn is easy. It’s hard and I often miss the same notes that my students do, and I tell them that. If I try to play something and it doesn’t go so well, then we talk about how it’s not going well for me and how it might relate to their struggles as a horn player. I reassure them that it’s okay to not be perfect, and it’s okay to have to figure things out. That encourages them not to quit and to keep working.
Who has been a role model to you and why?
My husband has been a role model to me. As far teaching goes, he is primarily a bassoonist and is a Visiting Adjunct Professor at the University of Lagos in Nigeria. The students there ride their bikes for hours to get to the library to take a lesson, sometimes running into gangs along the way. They also don’t have access to the proper equipment, making the learning curve more challenging. My husband is a dedicated individual and is always looking for viable solutions. He is always working with students to help them reach their goals.
How do you maintain a solid work life balance?
My husband makes me take breaks. Otherwise, I would just keep going. I find that the best thing for me is to let myself take time off. The key to maintaining a work/life balance is taking breaks and knowing it’s okay to do that.
What traits do you possess that makes a successful leader?
The first one that comes to mind is I’m very detail-oriented and focused on doing my job, and I think that makes me a good leader. I am also able to speak up when it’s called for. Sometimes it’s easier to just go with the flow, but I’m willing to speak up if there’s something that needs to be addressed, even if it will make things a little tricky.
What has been the hardest obstacle you’ve overcome?
I am employed full-time in music, but for me I had to create my own path and it was challenging. After finishing my doctorate, I thought I would be able to get a good job right away and that wasn’t the case. I had to take stock and figure out how to make it work where I could still stay in music and have a full-time job doing something that I love. Those have been the hardest obstacles, but thankfully I’ve found some great ways to surmount them.
What is your biggest accomplishment?
My biggest accomplishment is being employed in music full-time, especially during the pandemic. So many people in our field – and other fields of course but particularly in the arts – have seen their livelihoods disappear because it hasn’t been regarded as a necessity. Music lessons, hearing an orchestra, performing live, none of these have been considered a necessity, even when we can all be together and not be socially distanced. But through it all I have been successful in music and being able to make a career out of it.
Outside of work, what defines you as a person?
The animals my husband and I have rescued. We have two rescue guinea pigs, a rescue rabbit, and two rescue cats. They all came from the shelter. Outside of work, I feel like helping animals is very important, and I volunteer at the small animal rescue when I can.
Where do you see you and your company in 5 years?
I’m very happy with where I am now, but I see myself in five years having even more of an online presence with more online lessons. I did online lessons before the pandemic and then, of course, with the pandemic that phenomenon has really been growing in our field. I think it’s represented one of the best things to happen in music, being able to reach people in distant places.