Emerge’s impact curator intertwines its speakers with the music

Lisa Shufro has selected a diverse panel of speakers for this year’s Emerge’s Music + Impact Conference.
Photo: Nusrat Durrani

She’s been called the “speaker whisperer,” and as the former Managing Editor of TEDMED, she has built innovative “dot-connecting” experiences all over the world. Her name is Lisa Shufro, and she’s one of the curators behind the inaugural Emerge Music + Impact Conference—responsible for finding musicians, artists, activists and other emerging creative types to help inspire and bridge communities.

Unlike South by Southwest, which has multiple conferences on the same footprint, Emerge flips the script on the typical speaker experience, she says. Shufro has tapped musicians like Imagine Dragons, Kaskade and Gerard Way not to perform, but to speak and inspire fans with their own personal stories and ideas—especially valuable in our current political climate.

“I’ve picked a lot of speakers who can be good role models for people who are wondering every day, ‘How do we deal with this?’” People are shutting each other out and screaming … so I want to pick people who are really good at listening and engaging in a dialog.”

Way, the ex-singer of My Chemical Romance, will discuss whether or not musicians “really need to be tortured artists to produce great work,” she says. And Khary Septh, founder of The Tenth, a magazine for queer black men, will host a performance about black gay culture and challenging the stereotypes that community faces.

And of course, there will be plenty of live music. “We love celebrities and musicians for who they are and for the ideas they represent,” Shufro says. “At most conferences, the music or the entertainment is considered the palate cleanser—it’s the thing you do to refresh your mind. In this case, music and ideas really belong as equal partners.”


Emerge’s three-day November program will feature a series of sessions—each showcasing musicians and speakers, and each centered on a specific, socially relevant theme. Read up on some of those planned topics below.

SPEAKING TRUTH TO POWER There’s a soundtrack to every social movement. Digging into how music and protest are intertwined.

SPEED DATING WITH GOD Singer-songwriter Jill Sobule interviews artists on how faith fuels their music.

FEAR & LOATHING Stories of inner and outer fears from artists, activists and parents.

THE SIDE EYE Pop culture has always pushed the boundaries of what’s appropriate. Take a look at what’s next.

PALE BLUE DOT How can music and technology connect us. Hosted by Aza Raskin, one of the most influential designers in the world.

SUCCESS STORY Unicorns are great, but there’s more than one way to succeed. Featuring Wall Street executives, social media darlings and My Chemical Romance’s Gerard Way.

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Leslie Ventura is a staff writer at Las Vegas Weekly and Industry Weekly. She’s picked the brains of rock stars ...

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