Name: Julia Barnett Tracy
Role: International Choir Operations Director
Based In: Austin, Texas
Julia has worked with the African Children’s Choir for 20 years. Fresh from graduating with a degree in Music and Theater Julia headed out to Africa where she embarked on a volunteering trip that would change her outlook on life forever.
After being one of the first volunteers to set up training centers in Africa for the Choir program, Julia went on to be responsible for overseeing the music for tours, which led to roles as a Choir Manager and Manager of Choir Operations. Now, Julia heads up the important role of International Choir Operations Director where she is responsible for overseeing a wide variety of activity across the charity, including managing operations for choir tours, special events, fundraising and overall management of music and concert programs.
What was supposed to be just an 8 month volunteering trip turned out to be Julia’s God given mission and her work has seen 1000’s of vulnerable African children achieve quality educations and successful careers that would not have been attainable to them without the African Children’s Choir program.
Based in Austin, Texas, Julia is a mom of two, Zander 6 and Lydia 3. She met her husband Van while they were both performing in a production of Joseph and his Technicolored Dream Coat. In fact, as well as being a busy working mom, Julia is also an established actress and writer. Julia penned a play called Modern Missionary, which was awarded best play at the New York International Fringe Festival in 2006. Julia also starred in the award winning play just a few months after becoming a first time mom, alongside The Wire star Gbenga Akinnagbe. Julia has also appeared in many New York based T.V and theater roles including Law and Order and 30 Rock.
We asked Julia a few questions about her time working for the African Children’s Choir to get to know her more…
What has been your most outstanding memory while working with the ACC?
There have been so many truly outstanding memories; the African Children’s Choir has been my life, my ministry for the last 20 years. One stand out period in those years has to be when I was in Southern Sudan in 1993, helping the lost boys amidst a Civil War. My time living in Africa with new Choir children, and training them, will also always hold a special place in my heart. That was between 1993 and 1995, those children are adults now, and we are still so close to this day.
What achievement are you most proud of?
All the little things that lead to something big. As a manager, I like to call upon my own experiences as a travelling chaperone, and living out in Africa, so I can offer our upcoming leaders within our staff and current chaperones advice from being there myself. I like to have a mentorship mentality in my role, so that the Chaperones are able to make the most out of their experience, it is a period of time that they will never forget and will shape their lives forever – it did mine.
Do you have any advice for people reading who may be thinking of becoming a volunteer or hosting the Choir children?
Having the Choir children in your home is a special opportunity to expose yourself and your family to a new culture without having to leave your front door. After just one day with these children your world view and perspective on life will change forever – it truly is a priceless experience. Whether they’ve just graduated and are looking for an experience of a lifetime, or if they’ve had their family and career and are now in a position to give back – all chaperones will experience the chance to be part of a bonded team with people who they may never have had the chance of meeting otherwise. Their eyes will be truly opened to different cultures, people and experiences. Volunteering for the African Children’s Choir is an enriching and educational journey.
What or who is your inspiration?
I think the reason I do what I do is a God given gift. When I was 16 I remember a minister visiting our school, talking about choosing the best path for our lives. After that talk I made a little deal with God that I would take the path He called for me, as long as it did not involve working with children and or going to Africa! Of course, the joke was on me because at 20 years old everything changed, I not only wanted to work with both, but I fell in love with children – and I fell head over heels in love with Africa. Someone is laughing up there right now.
As far as inspiring people, I’ve been blessed to of had many in my life. Ray Barnett, founder of the African Children’s Choir. He has taught me how to have big faith. He is a problem solver, who comes up with solutions that no one else could do. My first internship was with an Entertainment Attorney in Nashville, Sam Chapell taught me to think big not small. Walter Oketch stood up for the fight against corruption in Africa and was a big inspiration to me when I lived in Kenya. Last, but by no means least, Suzanne Nelson, International Director of the ACC – she is the most positive person I know. I’ve seen her hold the most kindness and grace for others, she has so much faith – I have learnt a great deal from her.
Looking to the future of the ACC, what are you most excited about?
That we don’t continue to do the same. We are looking to expand in every aspect to help more children, from the types of tours we do, the type of audiences we reach – not knowing what is next definitely excites me.