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Alumna Pushes Musical Boundaries and Redefines Success
Alumna Pushes Musical Boundaries and Redefines Success

Alumna Emi Ferguson '05 delivered Winsor's 30th annual Virginia Wing Lecture on Thursday, April 5, 2018. As Head of School Sarah Pelmas noted, the event reminded her how much Winsor will miss Miss Wing, who passed away in February.

Alumna Emi Ferguson '05 delivered Winsor's 30th annual Virginia Wing Lecture on Thursday, April 5, 2018. As Head of School Sarah Pelmas noted, the event reminded her how much Winsor will miss Miss Wing, who passed away in February (read more here).

Emi delivered her lecture with intelligence, humor and humility that would have made Miss Wing proud. She spoke about carving out her own unique path as a musician, the meaning of success, and how Winsor prepared her to take the necessary risks to succeed in a highly competitive field where gender bias remains prevalent.

A Julliard-trained classical flutist, Emi defies labels. As she explained in a recent media interview, she's "taking the art form in a new direction." Her debut album, "Amour Cruel," landed her in the top 10 on the Billboard charts last fall. Described as classical crossover and indie pop, Emi produced the album on her own without a manager or a label.

"I'm constantly confronted with new challenges... pushing me to do something that's completely new and pushing me beyond what I thought was possible. But Winsor taught me to strive, to do and be anything. And that we should really embrace the optimism bias, that wonderful thing that Winsor women have that says you are going to succeed even when the odds are against you."

Successful by any standards, Emi reflected on how success isn't always what it seems, and particularly for women, it requires learning to navigate the system and getting used to hearing no. "There's no single way to create success or effect change. We have to do it in so many different ways. And with every success story, we see unique, paired strategies for overcoming adversity."

Proclaiming not to have all the answers, she left the students with some words of wisdom. "Making it, whatever that is, is completely subjective, and constantly changes... and it's completely up to you." Particularly when your path may not be direct, "this idea of making it can be forever elusive. So you can choose to be sad about that, or you can choose to be optimistic about what comes next. There will always be challenges. But despite the challenges, it's a wonderful time to be a woman"

In a fitting tribute to Miss Wing, Emi closed with her insightful words of wisdom: "We belong to the believers of the world. But we also belong to the doubters of the world, those who have dared to question, to criticize, to evaluate, and to seek truth. Our job, against all odds, is to prove those believers right."

The annual Virginia Wing Lecture was established in 1987 by Bradford Washburn P'59, director emeritus of the Boston Museum of Science, in honor of Miss Wing when she retired in 1988. Each year since, Winsor has invited a person on the cutting edge of his or her field to share life experiences with students.