Music Academy has been focused on issues like innovation, audience engagement, entrepreneurship, and social justice over the last few years, especially with the Classical Evolution/Revolution conference. But Classical Evolution/Revolution always happened during the Summer Festival, when things were intensely busy for both fellows, faculty, and the community. In many ways MARLI has felt like an opportunity to slow-down and rediscover what’s important. How do you think this experience will change the Academy’s approach to these important topics moving forward?
I’m glad you mentioned Classical Evolution/Revolution. The MARLI pivot wasn’t about figuring out how to create conversations around career development, innovation, and social justice. We’d already been doing that through Classical Evolution/Revolution. But it was difficult to make that truly work during the Summer Festival, which is such a saturated time.
With MARLI it was like a revelation. It isn’t necessary to fly in all the panelists or deal with complicated travel schedules. The fellows can sit in their rooms and listen to these discussions. Plus, suddenly instead of sitting in a concert hall with 150 feet between them and the panelists, they’re face to face with them. And then you can do breakout sessions and now a small group of ten fellows are having engaging conversations with leading innovators in our industry such as Julia Bullock, Claire Chase, Beth Morrison and Conrad Tao.
We’ve realized this the way to do it. That’s what’s been so great about MARLI. MARLI wasn’t about figuring out how to do a Summer Festival in 2020. It was about bringing new methods of training and performing to our program that are sustainable and will make us more effective. The virtual panels are one place where I don’t think we’ll ever turn back.
What has the reaction to MARLI been like among the people you’ve spoken with?
The word that keeps coming up is gratitude. The gratitude our faculty have to the Music Academy, the gratitude that our fellows have to the Music Academy, the gratitude our administration has, the gratitude I
have. There is no one person we can point to as the creator of MARLI. It has taken every single person in this organization to pull this off. It’s fun to stand back and see the Music Academy of the West, this incredible organization, and feel such gratitude that we’ve been able to accomplish this collectively.
What have been some of the highlights of MARLI for you, personally?
In terms of the big picture, it’s been amazing for me to see how this organization has pivoted. But really it’s been the fellows. I was so struck watching the Copland Fanfare for the Common Man
during the end credits as it showed the fellows in all their locations. It was an illuminating moment where I realized just how many circumstances the fellows had to overcome to make this program successful. And I was so proud and overwhelmed in that moment when I saw those credits, reflecting on how incredible these fellows are and how essential their relentlessness was in making MARLI possible.
As we approach the end of this new endeavor, what do you feel will be MARLI’s most enduring impact?
MARLI has transformed our organization. There have been moments in our history that have changed our course. When the Music Academy was given the Miraflores estate in 1951, when Marilyn Horne became the director of our voice program in 1996, when we launched our partnership with the New York Philharmonic in 2014 and then the LSO in 2018—these were things that made people look at the Music Academy differently and made us
think about the organization differently. MARLI has been one of those moments. I think people will look back on this as a time when Music Academy changed. It’s a moment that we realized we can always—will always—be relevant, that we will always be willing to step up to the plate and do what is necessary to serve our mission.
I would also say embracing technology, embracing this magnificent virtual world that can be overwhelming and intimidating, has opened up so many new possibilities for our organization. We’ve recommitted to ourselves that we’re an organization that embraces change and is always willing to evolve. We know MARLI was successful because MARLI isn’t a one-off. MARLI will continue to influence how we run our program and make it more accessible going forward.