Emma Marzen is the incoming executive director of the Santa Fe Desert Chorale, but it's not her first position with the outfit. In 2016, Marzen became the company's box office head, and within six months, wound up promoted to the head of community engagement. A native of Maryland, Marzen attended the University of Miami for both choral studies and music business, parlaying that experience into a position at the Lincoln Center. But she's Santa Fe's now, and she's gearing up to bolster programming, expand engagement and otherwise slay. The Desert Chorale's next performance lands later in February, but for now, we wanted to get to know Marzen a little. Welcome to the big job, Emma!
I understand you were a part of the Desert Chorale before. Do you feel this gives you a leg up?
I really feel like I'm coming home, being here now. [The Desert Chorale] has always been incredibly special to me. It's a mission I believe in, and I feel that I have a deep understanding of essentially all that is required to both run this operation and further its mission for the future. We have so many special opportunities afforded to us—being in Santa Fe, going into our 38th year, and I have strong relationships with our board and our patrons, some of whom have been with us since almost the beginning, supporting this organization. I'm very confident in my knowledge of the chorale and where it needs to go.
Obviously it's early in the game, but do you have a particular vision you're hoping to fulfill in your new role, or is it taking a more organic direction?
I'm still just getting my feet back on the ground at the chorale, but on a philosophical level in terms of vision…people love this organization, and it might not be the most high-profile organization in town, but it has a strong following, and the reason for that following in my mind is really because of this magical experience our patrons have when they go to Desert Chorale concerts. It's an antidote to a disconnected world, and it allows us to join in our most accessible and innate form of musical expression. It reminds us that we are fundamentally connected and we can understand each other more deeply, so with that, my vision is simply to further that experience; to further our reach, to share this experience with as many Santa Feans, New Mexicans, Americans, people of the world that we possibly can.
The million-dollar Santa Fe question when it comes to so-called high-brow culture is usually something like "How do we get more young people to engage?" Is that a goal, and how might you go after that demographic?
Absolutely. I think it's everybody's goal… For the Desert Chorale, I think this is one of those age-old questions we're always thinking about and always trying to find new ways to tackle. I don't know that I have an answer right now, but I think listening to our audiences is going to be critical, and really reaching out, frankly, in more digital streams. Trying to find ways to express the experience, the story of the Desert Chorale, and what it could mean to someone who is younger and perhaps sees choral music as more 'high-brow' and inaccessible art form. We're a little bit more genuine than some experiences our generation has today—I am a millennial, and I've had a lot of these experiences myself, and ensuring there is accessibility in terms of tickets prices is also going to be critical. [The Desert Chorale] is going to be open to all, we want to bring this experience to all ages.