Best's Review


The Last Word
Hit the Right Note

Industry professionals are combining a passion for music and the skills gained from their avocation with their insurance careers.
  • Lori Chordas
  • July 2020
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INDUSTRY TALENT: Roger Schmelzer, CEO of the National Conference of Insurance Guaranty Funds, has performed in cabaret shows, dinner theaters and Carnegie Hall.
Photo courtesy of Kevin Alvey

By day, Jen Perry is an insurance account manager at First Foundation, a Canadian insurance and financial services firm. In the evenings and on weekends, she runs her own music talent agency and is the bassist for the band The Red Cannons.

Perry is one of several insurance professionals who have combined their passion for music with their insurance careers.

Perry credits music with teaching her to think outside the box. “It has helped [me] become more creative and find innovative solutions for my clients and offer them different options, which in turn creates a better customer service experience,” she said.

National Conference of Insurance Guaranty Funds CEO Roger Schmelzer said that's much like the creativity a musician employs when writing a song or interpreting a melody.

“I've never enjoyed getting up and performing a song the way the original artist sang it,” said Schmelzer, who for nearly 25 years has performed in cabaret shows, dinner theater and local restaurants, and last year, performed at Carnegie Hall in New York City. “I like to put my own spin on it, just as in the business world where being creative and innovative allows you to see possibilities and new or different ways of doing something.”

Schmelzer said music has helped him develop some of the skills needed to lead his organization. Preparation is among them.

“You can't stand on stage for 60 minutes and not be prepared,” he said. “Every song is different so you have to be very flexible and willing to make transitions, similar to what's needed in the business world.”

Effective communication also is vital in both music and insurance. “Whether you're performing on stage or presenting at an industry conference or speaking to your staff, it's important to remind your audience that you are doing it for them. So there's a real element of servant leadership that comes from music that transitions well into an industry career,” said Schmelzer, who is the chairman of the Great American Songbook Foundation and in 2008 released his debut CD About Now.

Perry said running her self-named artist development and talent management agency has provided her with skills needed for brokering success. “Operating a brokerage is much like setting up an artist's music career because you are managing schedules, marketing their business plans and helping them build a secure future,” said Perry, who after college toured with her band for six years before “depleting my savings and returning to the workforce” as an insurance adviser with State Farm in Canada until shortly after it was acquired by Desjardins Group in 2015.

Both Perry and Schmelzer said they're grateful for the opportunity to mix their avocation of music with their insurance vocations.

“I love both things that I do and the great people I have met through music and my career,” Schmelzer said. “I love the mission of the NCIGF and the people I work with, our members and those in the industry. The music involvement just adds another wonderful element to my job.”

Roger Schmelzer:

Jen Perry:

Lori Chordas is a senior associate editor. She can be reached at

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