Andrea Mott plays the violin for an Indianapolis orchestra—and shares her talents with students in the city’s public school system.

When Andrea Mott was studying for her accounting degree at Indiana University, she would often walk through the halls of the university’s renowned school of music, listening to the tones of strings, woodwinds, brass, and percussion emanating from the rooms.

For Mott, being surrounded by music was where she felt most at home.

Mott, coordinator of financial operations for Indiana University Health in Indianapolis, began studying violin in third grade, when the public school she attended in Indianapolis began to expose the students to strings. She loved the experience so much that she arranged to pay $5 a lesson for private sessions with her elementary school music teacher once in high school. “Knowing that my teacher was willing to work with me for that amount really motivated me to make her proud,” Mott says. “I learned the value of a mentor at a young age.”

Mott purchased her first violin at a garage sale when she was in high school. It cost $100—a lot of money for Mott, whose family struggled to make ends meet—but the quality was exceptional. Back then, having music to focus on was largely what kept her in school, she says. “I was an inner-city kid, and I hung out with the wrong crowd. When my friends dropped out of school, music was the only defining characteristic I had left,” Mott remembers. 

Mott concentrated on her music, gaining the confidence to try out for the Indianapolis Philharmonic, a volunteer group of musicians that performs five subscription concerts a year along with free summer park concerts. She performed with the Philharmonic her senior year of high school, where she benefited not only from the chance to hone her technique under the guidance of more experienced, highly skilled musicians, but also from the real-life lessons being a musician taught her. 

“Everything you learn in music can be applied to life, such as the importance of discipline and teamwork,” Mott says. “As a musician, you also learn that it’s OK to make mistakes. Nobody’s perfect. When you make a mistake during a performance, you learn to let it go and keep moving forward. You also learn the dynamics of collaboration: We’re all here to support each other. These are valuable skills for any profession.”

As much as she loved music, Mott devoted her studies to accounting in college. “Back in high school, I knew I had to support myself after I graduated from college, no matter what, so accounting sounded like a much more stable choice for me, professionally, than music,” she says. “I also had a passion for accounting that stemmed from a course I took in high school. I was fascinated that there was always a right and wrong answer in accounting: Debits always have to equal credits. I had never been exposed to a world that was so absolute.”

But she never forgot her experience with the Indianapolis Philharmonic. “To know that there are adults who continue to play and serve that piece of their heart, but who also have full-time jobs, really inspired me,” Mott says. For 23 years, she has blended her love of performing with the Philharmonic with her passion for healthcare finance, even as she has taken on leadership roles in finance and returned to school for her MBA. 

The Philharmonic also sponsors the symphonic praise choir in Indianapolis, a group that has 90 volunteer choir members, primarily from inner-city churches—and a passion for gospel music so extraordinary that Mott is often overcome with emotion during the group’s performances. “Playing with this group gives me goosebumps,” she says. “I cry during the performances, to the point I can’t see my music—and it’s awesome.”

Much of what Mott loves about her work with the Indianapolis Philharmonic and the symphonic praise choir is the ability to give back to her community, particularly public students in Indianapolis, where budget cuts have had a significant impact on fine arts programs. “We’re big on education and on keeping music alive in the public school system—and that’s a struggle,” Mott says. For example, the Philharmonic sponsors tuition-free “Strings & Jazzy Things” camps where schoolchildren learn jazz, scales, improvisation, and more. The Philharmonic also performs alongside high school orchestras, to give younger musicians the opportunity to showcase their skills in a larger venue and to learn from older musicians with greater skill.

Mott also works with high school students in the community and provides support not only as they grow in their music skills, but also as they graduate high school and even while they attend college, no matter what discipline they decide to pursue. “For these students, getting into college is a huge accomplishment, and then keeping them motivated once they get there—that’s the hard part,” she says.

Members of the all-volunteer Philharmonic must audition for a spot in the orchestra. Like Mott, they are driven by a desire to serve their communities by holding events that expose people to live, classical performances—often for the first time—and that promote a love of learning and of music. Each performer receives four free tickets per performance to share with people in the community; Mott often shares hers with the families of patients whom she has come to know in her work at Indiana University Health, with students, and even with checkout staff at local stores. During performances, it’s not uncommon to see members of the audience dancing to the music or clapping with abandon in response to a piece that has touched their hearts—a feeling Mott can relate to all too well.

“When I hear something on the radio that I’ve played before, I recall that specific time in my life, my favorite passages, the people I played with,” Mott says. “These musicians have become my lifelong friends and cohorts. There’s such a sense of community within these groups. We’re all learning and growing together.”

Andrea Mott, a member of HFMA’s Indiana Pressler Memorial Chapter, is a talented violinist who shares her musical gift with her community.

Publication Date: Thursday, August 01, 2013

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