The Camino de Santiago and NMPAS have something in common: They are both historic and have many stories to tell. Of course, the Camino has been around for much longer than NMPAS. People began to make pilgrimages from all over Europe beginning in 1100 CE. In walking the Camino one cannot help but think of the millions who have gone before on that very trail. And the arrival at the Cathedral in Santiago de Compostela is almost indescribably joyous and beautiful. We’ll be sharing more about “The Way of St. James” in subsequent installments of the Camino thread.
Yesterday I was thinking about the story of the “pilgrimage” that NMPAS has taken to arrive at where we are today. When our music director, Franz Vote, and I settled in Santa Fe in 2009, we expected to retire from music. We planned to transition to an entirely different phase of our lives. Little did we know that our colleagues in northern New Mexico had an entirely different idea!
Let me share a snapshot of how we came to be and what NMPAS has accomplished in four short seasons. Since we are beginning what many consider a landmark year – Number 5! – this is a great time to reflect and tell our story, which is still unfolding.
Two colleagues and I wanted to start a week-long flute masterclass in Santa Fe. So I visited the Immaculate Heart of Mary Retreat Center in summer 2010. The director, Jeff Snodgrass, took me into the Chapel. I was deeply moved by its beauty and peacefulness. Not only did he express interest in hosting our flute class – he also asked me if we could present a few concerts in the Chapel.
That first year we organized three concerts in the Chapel. We began small with perhaps 25-30 people in the audience. The musicians received the proceeds from ticket sales. At the third concert in May 2011, NMPAS music director Franz Vote conducted several pieces for chamber choir and instruments. The singers were so thrilled that they asked him to establish a professional choral group in order to work with him regularly. And so the New Mexico Bach Society, Chorale and Players was founded. Here is a photo of the original NM Bach Chorale at the debut concert in May 2012:
We are very blessed to have met two fantastic lawyers, Stefanie Kyser and Jim Rubin, who generously donated their time and expertise to NMPAS. Stefanie helped us to register at the state level and – thanks to Jim’s wise counsel – we received our IRS Determination Letter in less than a year after submitting our application.
Meanwhile, our series began to receive press coverage, audiences grew, and more and more musicians reached out to us. We now presented three series of events: The New Mexico Bach Society, The Chapel Series at Immaculate Heart, and Santa Fe Flute Immersion, our annual week-long flute and performance skills masterclass. The quality of our concerts has steadily increased to the point where we received two wonderful reviews in the Albuquerque Journal last season (Winter Solstice Review, Wagner Review). We began to notice that when we mentioned NMPAS, people’s eyes lit up. We had gone from being a new, relatively unknown arts organization to one that people knew through word of mouth and personal experience. The key word is experience – unless NMPAS concerts and events move people, and provide a meaningful “space” in which listeners can actively participate, we are not doing our job!
From the beginning, NMPAS and its founders were excited by collaboration with music presenters and other non-profits. To date we have participated in joint projects with many non-profits: The Immaculate Heart of Mary Retreat and Conference Center, The Archdiocese of Santa Fe, Serenata of Santa Fe, The Santa Fe Symphony, Chatter Albuquerque, Taos Chamber Music Group, New Mexico Highlands University, New Mexico State University Las Cruces, Carrizozo Music, the UNM John Donald Robb Musical Trust, and the Renesan Institute for Lifelong Learning, among others. In 2016-2017, NMPAS will celebrate new collaborations with El Rancho de las Golondrinas and the Los Alamos Little Theater.
Our mission has always been to provide meaningful employment for professional musicians and other artists who make their home in New Mexico. One of our board members recently pointed out that, in 2015-2016, 85% of the NMPAS budget was spent on artist fees! We are proud that our founders and staff have been able to devote four years to bringing NMPAS to the point where it is a firmly established, greatly appreciated professional arts organization with activities throughout northern New Mexico and beyond. None of this would have been possible without our wonderful donors, board members, committees and volunteers.
There is so much more to share, and we’ll be doing just that in the coming weeks and months. Let me close by mentioning our wonderful Business Partners – Los Alamos National Bank, First National Bank of Santa Fe, Cuddy & McCarthy LLC, Santa Fe Reporter, Santa Fe New Mexican, Hutton Broadcasting, Total Wine, El Rey Inn, and Verne Q. Powell Flutes – the Amazing Individual Donors, whose names you will find on our website (www.nmperformingartssociety.org), and the granting organizations that have helped to fund our seasons since 2013 – New Mexico Arts, the McCune Charitable Foundation, and the Santa Fe Arts Commission.