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Check Out Torianne Valdez’s Story

Today we’d like to introduce you to Torianne Valdez.

Hi Torianne, please kick things off for us with an introduction to yourself and your story.
I was born with music in my soul. My mom has been an elementary music teacher at the same Title 1 school in Tampa, Florida for 41 years and my dad, now retired, was a band director and was the sax player in a Top 40 cover band called Toca when he was younger. Being raised by two music educators and musicians helped me really appreciate music and see how it affected their students in such a powerful way. I really started getting into country music in middle school, when my aunt taught me all the great 90’s classics. I remember being so intrigued by the songwriting process and fell in love with the simple, stripped-down sound of the acoustic guitar.

In college, I was undecided about what I wanted to do but knew I loved sports and entertainment. I chose Public Relations and interned at different sports organizations, but soon realized that it wasn’t where my heart was. It was with music. After graduating, I started working with local musician friends, booking shows and media opportunities to gain experience in music and to help my friends along the way. Finally, in 2007, my grandparents and my mom took me to Nashville to CMA Fest for the first time and it was the trip that changed my life. The second I set foot in the city, I knew it would be my home one day. I went to CMA Fest every year after that, meeting as many people as possible in hopes of one day moving here!

I started using all of my free time to chair local charity events in Tampa, always subconsciously making music the focal point. I realized that my heart was set on making a big impact on my community through music and I wanted to make a career out of it. Finally, my mom introduced me to a local charity called Instruments of Change who placed after-school band programs in Title 1 schools, including my mom’s school. I had the idea of putting on a giant benefit concert for them to help raise awareness and funding for their programs. I met with the founder, Glen, and he loved the idea. I dove right in, volunteering with them for a year, and then got hired full time until funding ran out to support any salaries. I was devastated, but being let go gave me the courage to step out of my comfort zone and make my move to Nashville. I am incredibly grateful for the opportunities and experience I gained with Instruments of Change. They do incredible work in the community and Glen was an amazing mentor to me. Mentors are so important to have and I will always be grateful to them!

I took a leap of faith and moved to Nashville in 2016 without a job. My dream was to work for a music non-profit and I had known about Musicians On Call (MOC) for a little while. My good friend, college classmate, and now colleague, Melinda, started their Young Professional Committee. Soon after moving, I joined Melinda at the YPC to get involved and volunteered as their auction chair. I met some of the staff at our year-end event and I guess timing and the stars aligned – MOC had an opening! I applied and have been with MOC ever since.

Can you talk to us a bit about the challenges and lessons you’ve learned along the way? Looking back would you say it’s been easy or smooth in retrospect?
I think one of the biggest struggles was that my career path wasn’t a straight line and I was living in a city with minimal jobs in music. It was also really hard for me to make the decision to leave all of my family and good friends back in my hometown, but I knew with big dreams come big sacrifices.

It took a lot of volunteering my time and working for free to gain experience, putting myself out there with new ideas, taking the initiative to create opportunities in music, and building relationships along the way. I also had to work hard at not getting discouraged when others didn’t quite understand my dream, and not giving up when doors were closed. That being said, I had so many people believe in me, encourage me, and support me along the way, who gave me a chance when I had little experience. I am forever grateful for them and embrace any opportunity to help others who may need a little guidance on their own career paths.

Thanks for sharing that. So, maybe next you can tell us a bit more about your work?
I am a Senior Program Manager at Musicians On Call. I oversee our Tennessee programs, volunteers, hospital relationships, and community partnerships. At MOC, we bring live and recorded music to the bedsides of patients in healthcare facilities across the country. When the pandemic hit and volunteers and family members were no longer able to visit their loved ones in hospitals, MOC was able to continue to bring healing through music to our healthcare community virtually.

Volunteer guides facilitate a 30-minute program where volunteer musicians perform uplifting songs to brighten the days of patients and caregivers. Through technology, we expanded our virtual programs and were able to reach over 150,000 patients, family members, and caregivers nationwide in 2020, which is more than MOC has ever been able to reach in a single year. Along with other cities, we dedicate one weekly virtual program to all hospitals across Tennessee where we feature volunteer musicians from across the country, including emerging artists and one-on-one celebrity artist visits as well.

I am proud to be able to play a small part in turning someone’s day around, inspiring hope, and bringing support and kindness to those who are feeling really alone. It’s true that everyone is fighting a battle and you don’t know how one small act of kindness can really affect their life. It’s so unique and incredible that we get to impact people in our Nashville community every day – complete strangers who are all going through something and could use a little bright spot in their day.

I’ve heard patients say that the one song that our volunteer musician played reminded them of who they really are outside of those hospital walls, or reminded them of a happy time when their loved one was still alive. I’ve seen a Veteran patient who can’t communicate, but once the music starts, he drums on his meal tray in perfect rhythm and sings along to every word. I’ve seen families sing along together and share one last special moment together before their loved one passes. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen a musician pick a random song and the patient or family member says, “That is exactly what I needed today!” or “This is the first time I’ve smiled all day,” or “You don’t know how much that meant to me.” Music is so powerful and music heals in ways we can’t even comprehend.

Some of my favorite projects are getting to create new initiatives in the community that help us grow our programs and also give our volunteers a chance to shine. I’ve led partnerships with Bonnaroo, Whiskey Jam, Grand Ole Opry, and – one of my all-time favorite venues – The Bluebird Cafe. It’s really fun to put together a lineup of our talented volunteers and hear them share their amazing stories firsthand with our community. One of my most memorable programs was being able to bring music to those affected by the Nashville tornado in 2020. Our volunteers were truly on call to pick up their guitar and go out into shelters and volunteer sites in areas most affected by the storm. It was special to get to bring a little light during such a dark time in our city.

I am so grateful to work at MOC and it is a privilege to get to help serve our community with this incredible team and amazing roster of volunteers. The real rock stars are our volunteers who give their time and talents every single month.

Let’s talk about our city – what do you love? What do you not love?
Nashville is a magical town. I love how vibrant the songwriting and artist community is here, and I love how the audience actually listens to what they have to say. There’s no other city that has the amount of talent, passion, and drive that Nashville has. I love that there are so many creatives, entrepreneurs, and people just chasing their dreams. I love the music history that lives here as well – The Ryman, The Bluebird Cafe, Music Row, the original honky-tonks downtown… it’s all so amazing to know how many legends started their careers inside those walls and how many stories came from inside those venues. I think the best part of Nashville is the sense of community. Everyone is welcoming and willing to lend a helping hand, whether that be volunteering, introducing you to new people or opportunities, or just grabbing coffee with you to give you advice or lend a listening ear.

What I like least about this city…there’s no beach! But, Tampa is only a quick plane ride away.

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Image Credits:

Jason Myers, Glenn Sweitzer, and Dusty Barker.

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