Gina Keltner built her dream career as a talent booker for the legendary Grand Ole Opry, but that passion is far surpassed by the love she has as a single parent.  In this podcast, she underscores the importance of work/life balance, relationships, and motherhood by sharing inspiring stories including the adoption of her daughter, meeting her childhood heartthrob, and forging friendships in the entertainment industry.

Give us a snapshot of your work at the Grand Ole Opry?

Well, there are no two days that are the same. I can tell you that. You know, I might start my day at the Opry [thinking that] today’s the day I’m going to start working on this particular special show we’re planning in September. And then the next thing I know, someone will have to cancel. So, at that point, I’m always trying to get ahead, but then at the same time, we have shows going on constantly that are going to be needing my more immediate attention. My day is just a bunch of juggling of reaching out to artist reps to looking online at artist schedules, and just trying to find that one little hole in their schedule where they might be able to swing by and do the Opry…

In our conversation, she touches on the struggles of maintaining the continuity of the Opry through weather issues including devasting flooding, tornadoes, and snow as well as performer’s changing schedules.  She shares an incredible story about rediscovering her childhood heartthrob Shaun Cassidy, on Facebook during COVID shutdowns, and how that connection became a dream come true when she booked him for his Grand Ole Opry debut.

How do you navigate the responsibilities of your career and parenthood?

As a single parent … I learned right away that … I’ve got to take care of myself first. I remember when my daughter was a baby and I know that a lot of parents let their children sleep with them and that’s perfectly fine. I totally respect that. But I knew for me, I could not do that. I had to have my sleep. She was depending on me and only me. So, I think it’s just really important. It’s so easy to put our kids first, but we’ve got to be good for them. We’ve got to remember to take care of ourselves and ask for help. And that’s advice I’m giving to others and reminding myself. It’s very hard for me to ask for help, but I’m very blessed that I do have a village that roots for me and my daughter … I believe it was a lady at church one day [and] she wanted to help me and I said, Oh I just hate to ask you for that, and she said, “Do not steal my joy. Let me do this for you … it’s joyful for me to be able to help you. It helps my heart.” So, I try to remember that. I think it’s important to remind people that there are blessings in giving … It might feel more like you’re asking for help rather than giving someone the benefit of being the giver.

Her daughter is now a very social teenager. Keltner shares wonderful stories about the support she has had through the years from the community, and Opry members, including a heartwarming encounter with country artist Vince Gill on Valentine’s Day. She is effusive elaborating on several proud mama moments throughout our podcast.

Is there advice you have for other single parents or individuals who might be thinking about adoption?

Well, it is not for the faint of heart. Adoption is a roller coaster ride. You just have to hang on and put a lot of faith in the process. But I really do believe if God plants that desire in your heart, then He’s going to carry you through. And I understand the fear involved because I was there. There were times I was very afraid and afraid that it wasn’t going to happen for me, but I just continued to trust and pray a lot and lean on my friends and family for support. …I would totally support doing it. Don’t let anything hold you back.

Do you think some of your experiences as a parent have shaped your approach to talent booking or production?

I think so. You become a parent, you’re suddenly responsible for this other human being. You know that they’re watching you. For me, it’s just made me more focused on my work ethic, [and] being the very best influence I can be for her. Or, certainly right now, it’s hard to believe. It’s really time to be talking about [and] thinking about what she might want to do with her life.  …I hope she sees that what I do is something that I truly love and that I’m passionate about, and that I want her to find her passion [in her life]. And that I will support her all the way with whatever that passion is. So, I think it just causes you to step it up, because you know you’re influencing this other human and they’re watching.

What is it that you do to Squeeze the Day?

Well, my life is crazy busy, especially today with social media and these devices. The one time when I am by myself and no one can bother me is in my car. So, I really try to squeeze the day — squeezing that time in my car to take advantage of that time — whether it’s listening to an audiobook or calling my parents or … cranking up that music. You [can] crank up “Da Doo Ron Ron” and belt out Shaun Cassidy as loud as you can and just take that moment to be grateful for your amazing life.

In this Squeeze the Day, Gina Keltner reminds us that anything is possible if you set your mind to it. From single motherhood and adoption to overcoming obstacles, the bottom line in life is “the show must go on” and how you manage it makes all the difference.

This Squeeze the Day is brought to you by the All of Us Research Program from the National Institutes of Health. Learn how you can help change the future of health by participating in the program.
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