Member Spotlight: Jean Player
Welcome to our Member Spotlight series, where we highlight some of the amazing work being done by ArtsBoston Member Organizations all over the Greater Boston area. Once a month, we choose a staff member from one of our Member Orgs and chat with them about why they do what they do and what being a part of the Boston arts and culture community means to them. If you would like to nominate someone you know (or perhaps yourself) to be considered for a Member Spotlight, please contact us.
This month, I had the pleasure of chatting with Jean Player, Manager at Chorus pro Musica.
How did you first get involved with the arts? What drew you to music?
To be honest, I am not a musician! I took one year of piano lessons in elementary school. But I have loved visual arts since I was a child; art was my favorite subject in school. I have a BA in art history from UMass Amherst and I got my career start in non-profit administration. I went on to get an MS in arts administration from Boston University.
Prior to Chorus pro Musica, I worked in arts education and community arts for a number of years. And then I was looking for a job change and applied for the CpM manager position. I can’t read music to save my life, but I can do the administrative work! So as a non-musician, I have enjoyed learning about, and listening to, beautiful music. There are some memorable performances that resonated with me on a particularly emotional level.
I can’t read music to save my life, but I can do the administrative work! So as a non-musician, I have enjoyed learning about, and listening to, beautiful music.
What do you love about working for a choral ensemble? What’s challenging?
There are over 100 reasons why I love working for this particular choral ensemble — the members! CpM is a volunteer chorus; each and every member puts in the time and commitment to learn their music and sing together every week, September through May, because they love making music. CpM also has a core group of volunteers among the members who work on all aspects of operations year-round. I am in awe of their talent and dedication.
Marketing and fundraising are ever-present challenges as well. Boston has a large choral community; there are multiple different concerts happening on any given Friday night and weekend. CpM’s repertoire spans a wide range of chronology and type, from centuries-old to very new. So, how do we capture the attention of our audiences and get them to come to our concerts? And then, of course, ticket sales cover only a fraction of the operating budget. And platforms have changed since I got started in arts administration over 20 years ago — most dramatically in recent years with online media and services.
Chorus pro Musica is known for working with composers on new works, as well as performing more classic pieces. How do each of these define CpM, and how does this blend of old and new inform CpM’s mission?
The blend of old and new is a key component of CpM’s mission. The classics are well-known and well-loved. Contemporary and new works are fresh. Both are artistically challenging and inspiring to our singers and our audiences.
Chorus pro Musica has been around since the 1940’s. How does Chorus pro Musica continue to carve out its niche in the Boston choral community in this age of diverse and numerous entertainment options?
In terms of carving out its niche in the Boston choral community over the course of decades, I think CpM has been very fortunate to have strong artistic leadership, starting with CpM’s founder, the late Alfred Nash “Bud” Patterson, and now with Jamie Kirsch, who is going into his sixth season with CpM.
The organization’s leadership and membership have maintained a high level of professional-level music standards. CpM is known to be an excellent chorus. This strength has led to successful and satisfying collaborations with orchestras such as the New England Philharmonic and the Boston Philharmonic Orchestra.
CpM’s mission includes performing innovative programming, and under Jamie Kirsch’s baton, CpM continues this. Examples include Stravinsky’s Les Noces (2015) with BoSoma Dance at Jordan Hall and a concert version of Gershwin’s Of Thee I Sing (2017) at the Robbins Memorial Town Hall in Arlington, MA. The latter isn’t innovative per se, but it was a different style than CpM usually performs and it was CpM’s first time performing in Arlington. It was a fun experience: in the opening number, chorus members walked down the aisles, greeting the audience while holding campaign posters for the male lead, John P. Wintergreen. We encouraged audience members to come in 1930’s attire; we served corn muffins at intermission!
What are you most excited for in CpM’s next season?
I am very excited about the fall season opener to CpM’s 70th anniversary season on Friday, November 9th: The world premiere of CpM’s most recent commission, Audubon. The work is about the famous naturalist John James Audubon and is written by acclaimed composer James Kallembach for chorus, full orchestra, and a baritone soloist; actually, the libretto draws from Audubon’s actual writings. And speaking of innovative programming, another remarkable aspect of this work is that it will include video projections by the Boston based studio, Ball Square Films. CpM is presenting this concert in partnership with Mass Audubon. I think the concert is going to be amazing.
There are over 100 reasons why I love working for this particular choral ensemble — the members!
Featured image: Jean Player and her family in Venice.