Maggie Tra started SYS Sister Sounds to be a part of something larger than herself. She is also the founder of Hà Nội Community Radio and has always been driven by helping women and non-binary creatives access more opportunities in the music industry. After several years of DJing across the world, gracing the decks in Brussels, Berlin, London, Australia, and Vietnam, in 2019 she took the next step and launched a skill-sharing community that supports hundreds of creators today.
SYS Sister Sounds is now a label as well as a collective, helping launch the careers for Asian women in Vietnam and beyond. They run workshops, music production classes, DJ classes, and networking events. Maggie also hosts “graduation nights” for graduates of SYS Sister Sounds’ DJ course where they play out at a bar for the first time. No one is more invested in a community than Maggie, and her motivation is never came from leveling up her personal network or career, but rather to nurture in a community she would call home. She’s grounded herself, her work, and her leadership in these five guiding principles.
Gratitude Builds a Community
Running workshops is only one facet of building a community; another vital part is fostering gratitude. SYS Sister Sounds and its ‘Intro to DJing’ workshop Pho The Girls wouldn’t be possible if each member didn’t express that mutual appreciation when they teach, play, and learn together. Pho The Girls’ success is founded on that spirit of gratitude and never taking the fact that they found each other and connected for granted.
Support Comes from Inclusive Gatherings
Workshops with SYS Sister Sounds are special because "not necessarily everyone becomes a DJ after the workshops, but they still come just to support one another,” says Maggie Tra. They attend to learn, network, and connect in a safe and familiar space. For Maggie, it’s about learning and growing as a community – almost like an extended family. “We would all host gatherings in our homes” she starts “wine and paint nights, embroidery lessons, or any other skill we could share and experience together. Having these extra activities allows us to show each other that we’re humans and not just DJs behind decks.”.
Teaching Workshops is a Privilege
“Teaching is a privilege” asserts Maggie, and a community can only build a strong following if the person mentoring them acknowledges that. For Maggie, the key to running SYS Sister Sounds is honesty, reliability, and humility. “Every time I run a workshop” starts Maggie Tra “I look at the people around me and think ‘wow they’re better than me’. I never think I am above anyone or better than any of my peers. I believe it’s a gift to share your skills and for people to take time to listen is an honor.”
Social Media Brings People Together
“I am really proud to see the women who I taught to DJ in various cities stay connected with each other online. They’ve never even met!” Maggie goes on to describe how they share their fears, experiences, and of course music, but most importantly they have become friends. “Pho The Girls has a Facebook group and group chat and they’re both super active, which allows us to stay connected,” says Maggie. Having and nurturing online communities “brings a sense of a community” explains Maggie, one that is crucial to any international collective.
Leave Your Ego at the Door
“I truly believe that for a community to grow, you must leave your ego behind,” affirms Maggie, and explains that letting go of a sense of control and managing the community is what helps her truly connect with the people she supports. “If you go in understanding that you have nothing to gain then building a community can be quite easy” explains Maggie. “For me anyway, I just thought I’d teach some women and then that would be it. Instead I unintentionally started SSS because of who I was as a person—because I cared about their growth and the message behind SSS resonated with them. I see a lot of collective leaders put themselves in event lineups and I think that’s a shame. Yes, play of course, but by putting the members before yourself you show them you care about them about the vision, and not just yourself.”
To listen to some mixes from Maggie and SYS Sister Sounds’, check out their channel on Mixcloud!