On Thursday, April5, 2018, Crystal Young-Otterstrom spoke to students about her career within the Utah Cultural Alliance and described her career path and life lessons. Young-Otterstrom is the executive director of Utah Cultural Alliance, the statewide advocacy voice for the arts, humanities, and cultural businesses of Utah; state treasurer of the Utah Democratic Party (elected position); and one of the managing editors of MormonPress.com. She serves as a co-chair for LDS Dems of America and as a co-founder and board chair for Salty Cricket Composers Collective. For eight years, she was the audience development manager for the Utah Symphony and seven years for the Utah Opera. A composer and coloratura soprano, Young-Otterstrom received a BA in music theory with minors in humanities, economics, and marketing at BYU and an MA in musicology and composition from the Aaron Copland School of Music in New York.
She began her presentation explaining that her main priority within her career is to act as an advocacy voice for the arts and humanities. Demonstrating her involvement in the community and politics, she listed several boards and organizations that she participates in. Among these are Utah Women and Politics PAC, Americans for the Arts, BYU PAS, Planned Parenthood Action Council of Utah, the School Community Council at Emerson Elementary, and Alliance for a Better Utah—to name a few. Quoting John Aster, she encapsulated her young-self’s motto, “what you can do or dream, you can begin it, boldness has genius, power and magic in it.” She then explained as she has learned and grown, her favorite quote has shifted to Ecclesiastes 3:1, “to everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven.”
Speaking about her political interests, Young-Otterstrom started out as a republican, but after being involved with the republican club at BYU, she realized that she was more left learning than she originally thought. She explained that at BYU she felt free to explore her political identity and became involved with activism for a time. After leaving BYU she became increasingly more involved in the Democratic Party. In 2011, she helped form LDS Dems as the vice chair.
Elaborating on the purpose of the Utah Cultural Alliance, she explained that the focus of the organization is to act as an advocating voice for the arts and humanities, raise awareness on the impact of the cultural center on the community using supporting data, and provide accessible professional development for those working in the arts and humanities. The Utah Cultural Alliance advocated for keeping the arts a required course in Utah middle schools. By petitioning the school board and calling a special hearing, they helped broker a compromise where parents could opt their child out a subject if wanted, but would be required to replace it with a similar class. Young-Otterstrom explained that although she is involved in partisanship, she enjoys working for a non-partisan organization. It is her opinion that the arts and humanities is not a partisan issue, and as the number one state in arts participation, it is not hard to justify that claim in Utah. She explains that within a non-partisan organization, everyone is friends and have decided to never take things personally. She enjoys getting to work with people from the other side of the political spectrum on something that they both agree on. She explained that this has been a great way to grow the diversity within her personal network, and she has learned that the most effective elected officials are bridge builders.
Closing with lessons she has learned throughout her career. First, Young-Otterstrom encouraged students to diversify their skill sets. She said that it is vitally important to always continue learning how to do new things, because a career requires a variety of skills rather than one specialized task. Second, she stressed the importance of becoming a “bridge builder.” She said that people respect you when you take a stand for things, but if you become immoveable, nobody will want to work with you. Third, don’t be afraid to say yes to things. Do not think you are underqualified if you are being invited. And fourth, always make time for your family as you go about your career. She explained that it is very important to draw lines around your work and home life, but it is very possible to do both.
Young-Otterstrom closed her lecture with a quote from Elder Jeffrey R. Holland: “There is room for those who speak different languages, celebrate diverse cultures, and live in a host of locations. There is room for the single, for the married, for large families, and for the childless. There is room for those who once had questions regarding their faith and room for those who still do. There is room for those with differing sexual attractions. In short, there is a place for everyone who loves God and honors His commandments as the inviolable measuring rod for personal behavior, for if love of God is the melody of our shared song, surely our common quest to obey Him is the indispensable harmony in it. With divine imperatives of love and faith, repentance and compassion, honesty and forgiveness, there is room in this choir for all who wish to be there.”
Thank you Crystal for your enthusiastic remarks!