Life Lessons Learned: How Saving a Life Gave Her Back Her Own – with Jessica Phillips

In this episode, Jessica Phillips and I discuss how she found her way to the elite position of second clarinetist at the Met, what it was really like as chairman of the orchestra committee during one of the toughest contract negotiations in the history of the Met, and how saving a stranger’s life gave her back her own life. Listen in to hear Jessica’s remarkable story of lessons learned through success and failure, pain and growth, in both her professional and personal life.

Jessica Phillips’ unexpected journey to the Met

Jessica Phillips started playing clarinet in second grade. Her personal and musical journey took her all the way to becoming the first woman clarinetist at the Met at age 24, and later serving as the committee chair for the orchestra. In this episode, Jessica and I talk about all the ups and downs of her journey and some unexpected twists and turns in the road. Join us to hear the many valuable life lessons that Jessica learned along the way, including how saving a life gave her back her own.

What it was really like for Jessica Phillips as chairman of the orchestra committee

One of the unexpected turns in Jessica Phillips’ story was her becoming the chair of the orchestra committee. In this honest conversation, Jessica talks about what it was like to be in this position as a woman, how she navigated one of the toughest contract negotiations in the history of the orchestra, how she learned to deal with conflict, and some of the delightful surprises along the way.

How saving a stranger’s life gave Jessica Phillips back her own life

In the midst of her success at the Met, Jessica Phillips’ marriage fell apart. In this episode, she tells me the painful story of that part of her life. But late one night she was walking her dog in a New York park and heard a stranger’s cry for help. She responded, and it led to significant changes in her life. Listen to our conversation to hear her story of getting real and doing the work she needed to move forward with her life.

How lessons learned translated into Jessica Phillips’ art and leadership

Jessica Phillips has learned many important personal skills throughout her journey. In our conversation today, she explains how these affect her music and her leadership in the orchestra at the Met. Listen as Jessica talks to me about her many lessons learned, including not being afraid of failure, learning to recognize emotions as messengers, and the inspiration she received from her very supportive and hardworking mom. You’ll be inspired by her story!

Outline of This Episode

  • 1:02 – Introduction to this episode with Jessica Phillips, 2nd clarinet of the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra.
  • 5:58 – How Jessica Phillips found her way to playing clarinet, and ultimately, to the Met.
  • 21:24 – Jessica’s unexpected journey to leadership within the orchestra.
  • 26:40 – What it was really like for Jessica Phillips as chair of the orchestra committee
  • 36:17 – The loss of Jessica’s marriage, and how it affected her music.
  • 43:26 – How saving a stranger’s life gave Jessica back her own life
  • 54:13 – Lessons Jessica learned and how they affect her life and her art.

Resources Mentioned


1. Favorite book for women?

2. Favorite self-care hack?

  • Meditation for mind and soul, a good manicure

3. Best piece of advice and who gave it to you?

  • “You can afford to be generous.” (Jessica’s stepfather)

4. Female CEO or thought leader you’re into right now?

5. One piece of advice you’d give your 5 years younger self?

  • Save for your retirement. Be financially aggressive for yourself. Nobody is going to do it for you.

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