I have been working with the EMA staff for a year now, and in that time I have learned a lot about what an amazing network of early music fans, musicians, and organizations there are across the country. Even more, I have come to respect the team of three individuals who work diligently from their Eastlake Seattle office to keep that network not only running, but thriving.
Although there is a nice staff section on their website to tell you a bit about them, anyone who has met them will tell you that the descriptions pale in comparison. The EMA staff are a lively, quirky, fun, dynamic, and passionate group of individuals. I sat down with them recently for a discussion so that I could share some of their interest and individuality with the EMA readership.
First, the setting: the EMA office, which is on Eastlake Avenue in Seattle. For those unfamiliar with Seattle, Eastlake runs along the east side of Lake Union on a narrow strip between the lake and the interstate. All of the architecture in the area is vertical, and the reason for that is apparent when you step into the small set of rooms the EMA staff share: it’s the view, beautiful and barely interrupted, of Lake Union. Maria Coldwell, Executive Director, laughingly told me that their comment is always, “Yes, we have a good view—of the rain!”
Once we had all settled down to talk, I really only had a few questions, but the rambling discussion lasted for quite some time. What follows are a few highlights.
When I asked the first question, “How did each of you become involved in early music?” they exchanged some glances, and then Patrick Nugent, Advertising and Publicity Manager, shrugged and volunteered to go first.
“When I started here, honestly,” he replied. His background is in publishing. Since then, however, he’s become quite fond of lute music. When I inquired more recently if his newborn son Colin was crooning Bach yet, he replied that no, “he sounds more like Sammy Hagar or the guy from the Scorpions when he screeches.”
Maria is a self-professed lifer, and has been ever since her undergraduate years at Yale when she went to a concert of Guillaume Dufay’s work. “It was a whole new sound world,” she said. At that point, she went from playing the standard flute to focusing on the recorder and the baroque flute.
Sally Mitchell, Membership Director, is another flautist, but it was only after she’d returned to music after college that she stumbled into a music shop in Claremont, California, where she decided to purchase a recorder. When she began studying it, she said, “I’d found my world.”
When asked what their favorite events or memories were, there was a general consensus that the Boston Early Music Festival and the Young Performers Festival were definite highlights. Maria loves the Medieval and Renaissance performance competitions—she remembers the year when Asteria won, and “the audience burst out with lots of whooping and hollering and cheers from friends.”
As for what they are looking forward to in EMA’s future, they were able to rattle off a lot of exciting prospects: a dream of an endowment campaign to further support the field in general and early music education in particular; the Baroque Performance Competition in 2012; a recording competition with NAXOS. And those are just a few of the things in the works.
Throughout our discussion, it readily became apparent that the EMA staff’s greatest asset is their willingness to work together. They’re a great team. As Sally said, “It’s a small office, so we’re going to run into each other. We might as well bounce ideas off of each other too!” From the way everyone chips in on the inevitably laborious small tasks that accompany any working office, Maria, Patrick, and Sally support and connect with each other in their efforts to bring together the diverse practitioners of early music.
And it’s obvious to me that their success at that leads directly to the success of Early Music America. So when you’re attending an EMA member event, or reading Early Music America magazine, be sure to think of them all, working away in their small offices with a great view of the Seattle rain.