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Meet Tulani Bridgewater-Kowalski

Updated: Oct 23, 2023

Meet Tulani Bridgewater-Kowalski

We were lucky to catch up with Tulani Bridgewater-Kowalski recently and have shared our conversation below.

Tulani, thanks for taking the time to share your stories with us today. What was the most important lesson/experience you had in a job that has helped you in your professional career?

Navigating gauntlets, balancing competing needs, and managing personalities are skills I developed managing a bar. In some ways, those skills were more transferable than what I learned during my college internships; though I learned a lot from those early steps into what would become my career.

As a bar manager, I was forced to make on-the-fly decisions, multi-task, manage employees, keep my eye on patrons, all while ensuring the bar was a properly maintained and smooth running business. At times, I had to negotiate disputes with unruly customers or disgruntled employees. I had to work long hours on my feet, remain even keeled, and exercise discernment with real ramifications. If someone was over-served their or other’s safety was in danger and our business license could be revoked.

It was an excellent proving ground. Whenever we were short-staffed, I stepped behind the bar to serve. I became adept at listening. Everyone loves to spill their troubles to a bartender. I learned how to read people and assess situations. I washed dishes, hauled kegs, took inventory, mopped floors, handled cash receipts. Anything that needed doing, I did it. Nothing was beneath me. As the manager, the buck stopped with me.

I applied all of this experience to my business. I’m comfortable taking responsibility, making tough decisions, brokering peace, cajoling taciturn personalities, working long hours until the job is done…whatever it takes.

Whenever I’m mentoring would-be entertainment professionals, I suggest they work in a service job. In truth, all jobs are service positions. You can learn a lot by observing how someone treats the barback, waitstaff, or valet. It is an excellent way to get a crash course in people. It teaches you to appreciate hard work and put things in their proper perspective.

Nite Bjuti

Theo Croker
Great, appreciate you sharing that with us. Before we ask you to share more of your insights, can you take a moment to introduce yourself and how you got to where you are today to our readers.

I founded Bridgewater Artists Management, an entertainment consultancy firm, specializing in music management, production, touring and artist development. My principle focus is in jazz, nu jazz, and blues. I’ve been in the field for over 20 years, working with award-winning artists, producing album projects, managing worldwide tours, and developing emerging talent. We’ve put out several Grammy award winning and nominated projects.

An extension of my work in music is the non-profit organization I co-founded and serve as co-Artistic Director and Program Curator, called The Woodshed Network. It’s an artist residency program for women in jazz. We address the artist holistically, from professional skills to physical and mental health and wellness. Each year, we assemble a cohort of women business leaders and creatives to mentor, support, and educate our mentees. It’s an incredible program serving unmet needs for women in the jazz community and beyond. We’re heading into our fifth year in partnership with 651 Arts (Brooklyn, NY) and the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation.

Amidst the pandemic, which halted most of the music industry, I founded The Writer’s Room, a cooperative community for women writers. We meet daily to co-work, collaborate, and support one another. We host writing sessions, book launches, in-person and online events. It’s a passion project that has grown into an incredible space filled with fiercely talented women writers of all genres and mediums.

Out of The Writer’s Room came a partnership with a wonderful writer named Amy Marie Turner to create the independent publishing company, Fauve Press. We launched our first novel this year, “Voyage of the Pleiades” to great critical success and have a slate of releases for 2024. My debut novel will be among them. I’m thrilled and a bit nervous.

All of these ventures share a common thread. They’re grounded in nurturing talent, while supporting creative and personal expression and growth. The arts overlap. So, it feels organic to have these outlets and communities within each other’s orbits.

I also serve on the Board of Directors for The Plain Sight Archive, a non-profit organization dedicated to fully inclusive history in 20th century visual arts and culture by developing an relational database of traditionally obscured figures and creative communities.

The Woodshed Network

Bridgewater Artists Management, The Woodshed Network, The Writer's Room, Fauve Press, Plain Sight Archive

What do you think helped you build your reputation within your market?

I’ve been told I create win-win solutions. That’s a principle I hold dear. For long-term professional success, it’s important to have everyone walk away feeling as good as possible.

One mustn’t under-value the importance of cooperation, trust, and respect. These are the critical components of every positive relationship. They also serve as the foundation of one’s reputation.

In a Berkshire Hathaway letter, Warren Buffet famously wrote, “It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it.” That is a truism that helps guide my decisions. Another pearl of wisdom is courtesy of my father. “Everyone has a nickel in the quarter.” Meaning we all have contributed in some way to the situation, problem, or solution.

Lastly, I believe in banishing ego and attachment to outcomes. Ego has no place in business. It’s an unreliable guide and a capricious partner. Being attached to outcomes can blind you to opportunities and solutions. I try to stay limber, open and curious.

Voyage of the Pleiades by Amy Turner
What’s been the best source of new clients for you?

I rely exclusively on word-of-mouth.

Entertainment is a small community. The people I interned with are still in the industry. My first boss is someone with whom I enjoy staying in touch. My former interns and assistants have gone on to be senior executives at major companies in entertainment and beyond.

Over my career, I’ve worked tirelessly to build a positive reputation backed by verifiable achievements. As a result, people in my field know who I am and what I bring to the table if they hire me. I’m very selective about the projects I take on. I have a full personal and professional life. So, when I say yes it’s because I love it and will give it my all. I don’t do anything halfway.

Memphis, Yes...I'm Ready by Dee Dee Bridgewater

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Image Credits: Profile Photo by Stephen Kowalski, “Nite Bjuti” (Nite Bjuti) by Mylo Butler, “AfroPhysicist” (Theo Croker) by Thomas Brodin, “Memphis” (Dee Dee Bridgewater) by Marion Hudspeth

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