Their romance blossomed near a Walmart, the Federal Pen, and a U.S. Army ammo dump. “A mutual friend recruited us to teach at a music camp in McAlester, Oklahoma,” John Concklin shares with a laugh. “Those are the only three things in McAlester.” His wife, Lauren Maxwell, elaborates. “At the time, we didn’t realize there was a spark,” she reveals. “In hindsight, there was a lot of chemistry. Within a few months we had our first date, and two weeks later, we knew we’d get married.”
Luckily, professional winds carried their cultivated bloom to Greenville, where the trained opera singer and award-winning conductor are creating new music together with a consultancy for nonprofit organizations and value-based companies. But that’s skipping to the encore, before the curtain even rises.
The recession hit about the same time John and Lauren graduated with their respective advanced performing arts degrees. While economic survival forced them to leave the stage professionally, they found transitioning to the business world easier than expected. “I re-catalogued my skills,” John explains. Conducting is basically leadership, strategic planning, handling money, and it’s a people business. As a conductor, you’re charged with selling a group of people on a musical idea.” For seven years, he used those talents to help United Way of Greenville County raise and allocate $20 million a year, as director of impact innovation. Currently, along with conducting around the Southeast, he is serving as Palmetto Fellow at the Institute for Child Success.
Meanwhile, Lauren was finding a different way to use her voice . . . through writing. For more than a decade, she crafted communication and served as a storyteller for IBM and a host of nonprofits through a cause-based marketing firm in Chicago. “It was kind of creativity unfolding,” she reflects. “Then I started getting this inkling that I had something of my own to say.” Lauren writes personal essays for a weekly newsletter called WE’RE ALL FRIENDS HERE.
This past January, the millennial power duo coupled their individual gifts to form a consulting group, Lauren+John, for philanthropies and businesses wanting to make an impact beyond the bottom line. John clarifies the vision and strategy, while Lauren molds the narrative and awareness. In less than one month’s time, they’ve already lined up clients. “It really means something to us when an organization, or business, is wanting to make the community better,” Lauren asserts. “We see ourselves most equipped to help people who are trying to succeed and thrive while they do that.”
Together, Lauren and John have found a way to help others, while taking the spotlight again as performers. This month, the couple will host their second annual fundraising concert, Mozart for a Cause. John still conducts orchestras and ensembles from Atlanta to Hendersonville, and plays his viola with the Greenville Symphony Orchestra. Fellow musicians are eager to join him for the event, which will also include Lauren’s vocal talents. All funds raised will benefit the Clean Air Task Force and One Tree Planted’s Appalachia Project.
“This is the culmination of all things,” John says. “This combines communications, music, the planning everything together, the community, the values.” His wife continues. “This is what it’s all about for us. We can feel like we are living more vibrantly knowing we’re living and expressing ourselves in the day to day, as we focus on helping people and our community.”
For more information on Lauren, John, and their consulting work, visit laurenandjohn.co. To purchase tickets to Mozart for a Cause, go to bit.ly/mozartforacause.
Portrait by Will Crooks