Danee Hunzie

Danee Hunzie (28).jpeg

WYOMING ARTS COUNCIL

What personal accomplishment are you most proud of?

Growing up I was very fortunate to have two educators as parents. We spent our summers traveling the country, visiting National and State Parks, and hopping from live music event to live music event. These concerts instilled my love for quality music, which has continued to grow over the years. It’s this artistic language we all speak that has the transformative power to build community. Although music was not my formal education, I continued to find ways to get involved with live music productions. However, I found it was not only difficult to find opportunities for a career in the music industry, but access for volunteering, networking, and professional development was extremely limited as well; it seemed impossible.

In 2010, I was a fresh graduate looking for a career and my dream of working in music production and events was stronger than ever. I was hired by the University of Wyoming Office of Admissions—a job I loved—but, I strongly desired to be employed in the music industry so I could pursue my passion for creating events and experiences through music full-time. I began volunteering for the Contract Acts Committee at Cheyenne Frontier Days and other festivals around Laramie, the State, and region. It was my first chance to gain hands on experience in musical events. From this volunteer work, I was reminded again that music was an extraordinarily difficult industry to tap into, but that entry was even harder in Wyoming. I volunteered for three years and learned everything I could when finally the break into the industry I had been hoping for presented itself. The CEO of the Academy of Country Music offered me a position on the Crew for their annual award show hosted in Las Vegas. I joined the Crew, returned the following year as a Crew Lead/Production Assistant for Talent, and this past year, was selected as Member of the Year by the Academy.

Helping run the live Red Carpet show, facilitating over 50 principals and their bands with on-site and day-of logistics, and leading a successful event management team was a dream come true. Earning this position took years of hard-work and volunteering, and many moments of doubt, but I finally achieved a lifetime goal; a small town girl from Wyoming working in the bright lights with the Academy.

What is your primary personal development goal/business goal for the next 5 years?

I am currently the Community Development and Independent Music Specialist for the Wyoming Arts Council. This position has been a wonderful opportunity to combine my three loves: music, Wyoming, and community growth. Although I have begun to grow a more robust live music scene, I hope to continue cultivating and expanding the artistic footprint of Wyoming, making the incredible talent we have in Wyoming more visible and accessible. Additionally, I have a goal to find funding for Wyoming Music so we can create a sustainable model moving forward. On a more personal note, I hope to run for the House of Representatives. Laramie and Wyoming are my home. I am involved locally, but I want to get more involved with policy and decision making at the state level. My final goal is to keep supporting Wyoming Grown. I believe in this state, boom or bust, and if we can support our own, build strong and vibrant communities, we will all come out stronger.

What is your biggest philanthropic achievement?

During college I enrolled in a course titled “Women of India,” and little did I know, it would change my life. When I say “change my life,” I’m not trying to be cliché; I truly came out of that course a new and improved person. Throughout the semester we studied women in India, exploring daughter devaluation (the phenomena of a reduced female presence due to the preference for sons in this region). Our amazing teacher, Dr. Bonnie Zare, had conducted years of research and even worked with a shelter for abandoned children in Kadapa, India called Aarti Home. 90% of India’s abandoned children are girls. While learning more about this subject, our class raised money and awareness for Aarti Home. In December, the class concluded with some students traveling to India to meet the children of Aarti Home and present our donation. This trip was in 2009. Seven years later, I have been back to Aarti home several times and have continued to be involved in supporting the program through outreach and service.

This is my biggest philanthropic achievement—not necessarily because of money raised, but because I have been able to give back for several years and also use the powerful stories of Aarti children to empower girls and women in Wyoming. I believe it is important to think global and act local. Aarti Home opens the door for conversations to empower girls in Wyoming—encouraging them to speak up, pursue their dreams, and advocate for their rights

(especially the pay gap in Wyoming!).

What action/event that you've been a part of, that you believe has made the biggest difference in Laramie?Or are you most proud of?

In January 2016, I launched a pilot music business incubator for the Wyoming Independent Music Initiative in Laramie. The goal of the program was to help grow independent musicians in Laramie through professional development workshops, industry panels, and concert showcases. Following 6 months of business development and artistic growth, the program concluded with a showcase held last June highlighting ten Laramie bands at the Gryphon Theater. It was a wonderful event that not only demonstrated the incredible talent we have in Laramie, but also the commitment of the community to support live music events—there were over 450 people in attendance. I am proud of this event because it brought people together, it created an experience for people to share that otherwise would not be in the same room together, and it lit a spark for future music in Laramie and Wyoming. It showed the industry that we, Wyoming, have talent. It displayed the transformative power of music—music as a driver for community and one that will have a lasting and positive impact on Laramie moving forward.

The pilot for the Music Initiative was so successful that the Wyoming Arts Council is going to expand services across the state highlighting the musical talent found in the other regions of Wyoming.

What excites you most about the future of Laramie?

Laramie is a wonderful, vibrant community to live in. I moved here in 2009 for college, but stayed because of the wonderful people, the strong community feel, and the wonderful personal and professional opportunities available—the outdoor playground is not too bad, either! There are many positive things happening in Laramie. As a community member and appointed representative on the Downtown Development Authority, I am very excited for the continued development and growth of Downtown Laramie. In the past ten years, there have been several improvements. I am excited for future projects including more murals, implementation of the Laramie Art Plan, more music and cultural events, more shops, and more opportunity for community. Downtown provides a space for people to gather, to share ideas, and to support one another. The continued enhancements will provide more occasions for this while also building a stronger community.

I look forward to not only participating and supporting the growth, but also being a volunteer member to help drive the efforts forward.

What do you think has helped make you successful in your endeavors?

I credit success to my incredible mentors who have supported me over the years through both the good and bad. During college, a dear friend gave me the best advise: surround yourself by people who inspire and challenge you, and let them mentor you through life. I found people who are honest and authentic, my biggest cheerleaders and fans, fair critics, and invested long term in my future. This has made a world of difference on my life both personally and professionally. Many of my mentors have been around for ten years, and continue to inspire and challenge me everyday to be my best version. Also, finding jobs that are also my passions has supported success. I don't view my job as work because I love the work I am doing and want to make a difference in the field. Being driven by passion and not just a paycheck inspires me daily to be more, do more and give more.

What advice would you give to other young professionals in Laramie?

My advice would match my answer above--find a job you are passionate about and then surround yourself with mentors to encourage and support you both professionally and personally. Laramie is an incredible community to grow professionally. There are endless opportunities to network and connect with people of various backgrounds and experiences. Take advantage! Getting involved in the community opens endless doors, and who knows, you might find some amazing new mentors as well!