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Jennifer Bradner (Jen) joined the Opera Memphis staff as Director of Accounting in September 2008. Fast forward to 2013—Jen was recently promoted to the position of Executive Director. Whether she is consulting on financial issues or helping plan and run international conferences and music tours, Jen’s forte is leadership. Though a finalist at the Memphis Business Journal CFO of the Year awards ceremony in fall 2012, Jen is not just a numbers person. Much like the opera itself, where all art forms come together – music, writing, choreography, costume and set design, acting and dancing – Jen brings an all-encompassing set of traits to her job performance with her rare combination of both analytical and intuitive talents. She is also an energetic mother of two.

We are proud to introduce today’s StyleBlueprint FACE of Memphis, Jen Bradner!

Where did you grow up and what brought you to Memphis?

I grew up on the Avenues in Columbia, South Carolina. I moved to Memphis at twenty-one in search of new adventure.

How did you become involved with Opera Memphis? How does your role with the opera company combine your creative talent with your business skills?

I joined Opera Memphis in 2008 as Director of Accounting. After taking an active role in the transformation of the opera, I was promoted to Director of Operations. A short while ago, I was offered the position of Executive Director in response to my willingness to take on leadership roles and responsibilities as necessary in order to achieve the goals of the collective vision. I value communications and I rarely leave things to interpretation. This characteristic has earned me a small part in a larger conversation. Willingness to take risks (personally and professionally) has also helped me grow professionally.

Your professional career launched before you were able to completely finish your formal education at the University of Memphis. How have you managed the roles of executive, mom and student simultaneously?

I have always worked and attended school. I graduated with a bachelor of liberal studies last summer from University of Memphis after sixteen years of penciling in classes.

What kinds of unique projects are you working on at this time?

Opera Memphis is gearing up for our first ever Midtown Opera Festival, April 4 to 7, 2013, at Playhouse on the Square. We’re all excited to produce a four-day opera fest.

I also just finished the first of a collection of essays: Energy of Money: Money Rehab, which I will be presenting at the Folk Alliance International Conference in Toronto in late February. This book shares a method I have developed to help people renegotiate their relationship with money. It is an effort to help transition people into a more conscientious lifestyle that fosters prosperity using fewer resources.

What inspires you to keep going when the challenges of your work set in?

I feel as if I’m racing a clock, and there are only so many hours left in this one short life. I want to accomplish my dreams. I want my children to realize their dreams. When it gets tough, I take a day or two off and usually get lost in nature. I unplug completely.

Do you have a favorite activity or set of activities away from work?

I enjoy spending time with my girlfriends. I love when my son wants to “talk.” I love when my daughter makes bibimbap (classic Korean dish).

Do you have a specific mentor? How has that person influenced you?

I am endowed with an array of amazing advisors, but my mentor is Sally Palmer Thomason. Sally has been a visionary in Memphis for nearly fifty years. To have a soul sister who has time traveled is a true gift. Sally’s book, The Living Spirit of the Crone: Turning Aging Inside Out, has changed my approach to aging. Every woman from thirty to one hundred would benefit from this book of wisdom.

Best advice you have ever received? Favorite quote?

“No one’s gonna die from you drinking the poison.” It means that harboring negative feelings towards someone else only causes harm to the self.

How do you unwind/recharge your battery?

I recharge by being alone. I take long candlelit baths and get lost in Indian classical music.

Favorite escape or guilty pleasure?

My favorite escape is on Sundays when I go to Pema Karpo Meditation center in North Memphis. A little silence, a little dharma talk, lovely souls. It prepares me for the week.

Favorite vacation or travel destination? (If there’s one place in the world you’d suggest someone visit, where would that be?)

I love Ireland! Ireland is kind, beautiful and easy to navigate. One bus pass can carry you across a thousand years.

What books are you reading, or have you most enjoyed reading lately?

I am reading Death and Dying by Glen H. Mullin. I am also reading The Voice of the Silence by H.P. Blavatsky. I enjoy reading anything on religion and spirituality. It is a form of “language” that I want to understand in a more meaningful way.

Do you have a playlist of favorite music for a dinner party or a workout that you can recommend?

Frank Sinatra for the party, 2 Chainz for the work out.

What three conveniences could you not live without?

Pandora, Skype, coffee.

Favorite beauty product you can’t imagine not using?

Poetry Intimate Ritual is a line of creams and oils that is absolutely amazing. Find this line at Diane’s Gifts on Overton Park—my favorite is Verse 2.

Must-have fashion item – clothing, shoes, and accessories – for spring 2013 on your list?

Banana Republic has the Kary pointed-toe pump that I couldn’t resist.

What are some basic words of wisdom you can offer based on your professional experience?

Stay clear of negativity. Be the one person everyone can trust. Dedicate yourself to your fear. Push through the hard work, and eventually you will achieve your goals.

Thank you Jen!

To learn more about Jen Bradner, visit her website:

And thank you to our photographer, Jen’s daughter, JG Bradner, an aspiring photographer who is leaving in one month for art school in Portland, Oregon!

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About the Author
Christian Owen