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August 17, 2017

Precollege Interview: Alexandra Wilkis Wilson (’90)

Alexandra Wilkis Wilson attended the MSM Precollege from 1984 to1990, studying piano with Professor Laurie Glaze. Alexandra is the co-founder and CEO of GLAMSQUAD and the co-founder of Gilt. Here is a look at how MSM and the skills she learned as a musician helped her succeed:

Why did you decide to attend MSM for Precollege?

I had taken piano lessons since the first grade with Laurie Glaze, who was also a professor at MSM. I loved the piano and it was an important part of my life and identity as a young girl. She encouraged me to attend MSM and get exposure to music beyond just piano, but also in other areas of music, including music theory and ear training.

What was your MSM experience like?

I went routinely to MSM every Saturday morning for 6 years. In my regular school, I was regarded as one of the top musicians; however, at Manhattan School of Music, I was just another musician, hardly the exceptional pianist I thought I was. That was an excellent lesson at a young age for the real world!

What is your favorite MSM memory?

I actually have so many vivid childhood memories of the MSM cafeteria and allocating my allowance on what to eat for lunch and snacks. That was a new and fun experience for me at age 8!

How did your education at MSM prepare you for life?

MSM taught me that hard work and discipline are not optional. I was exposed to high pressure at a young age. Once a month, I had to perform a piano solo in a beautiful concert hall in front of large audiences. That was scary for a young girl, especially when some of the other students were child prodigies! But I had to get through each performance, even if I hit a wrong note. I had to finish the piece, keep my composure, stand up and take a bow.

Tell us about your path from musician to entrepreneur and businesswoman.

That is such a long story as I am 39 years old and started at MSM when I was 8! If anyone is genuinely interested in learning about my entrepreneurial journey, I wrote a New York Times best-selling book with my Gilt co-founder called By Invitation Only: How We Built Gilt and Changed the Way Millions Shop.

Do you continue to keep music in your life? If so, how?

As a parent of two young children, I try to have diverse music in the home ranging from classical to jazz to bossa nova to pop. I sent both my kids to music school at Diller-Quaile when they were 6 months old. I sing to them almost every day. My brother has made a career out of his love of music and has a band called Big Data. My children are very proud of their uncle and know his hit songs by heart.

What is something outside of music and your career that you are passionate about?

My family!

What is your favorite NYC hotspot?

Central Park. It never goes out of style.

What is your “go to” karaoke song?

“I Will Survive“ by Gloria Gaynor.

If you could have a dinner conversation with any three people from the present or from history, who would you choose and why?

Madonna and Oprah because they are MADONNA and OPRAH, no last names necessary! And my grandmothers because I miss them…

What career and life advice would you give to new grads entering the “real world”?

Figure out what you are good at and what you are passionate about. If you can turn that into a career, you will be successful and happy!

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