Carmel Symphony’s Visionary Future: Insights from Executive Director Anne Marie Chastain

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December 2023/January 2024

It has become evident that since her appointment as the Carmel Symphony Orchestra’s executive director last August, Anne Marie Chastain is living her passion while leading the organization further into the 21st century.

Chastain holds a degree in clarinet performance from IU Jacobs School of Music and a master’s degree in arts administration. Her previous symphony orchestra experiences include working with the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra.

In our conversation with Chastain, we discussed the adjustments made to the ongoing 2023-24 season and explored her perspectives on forthcoming seasons and programming. Carmel Monthly, a steadfast supporter of the CSO, is pleased to feature Chastain on our latest cover as a token of our enduring commitment to the orchestra.

Building Upon an Established Foundation

Chastain shared some more about her personal background and musical journey.

“I come from a musical family, and [music] has always been a part of my life,” Chastain said. “Classical music, Broadway and jazz…it’s ingrained into who I am. I ended up at Indiana University and studied music [there], and I have a history degree as well. I love performance…[it’s] changed my life. [Going] into the business side of the arts and helping to promote the arts in our community is exciting and incredibly rewarding.”

Chastain spoke about the synergy between her and the CSO Board of Directors.

“I was introduced to one of our board members at a sister city event last February,” Chastain said. “We talked about symphony orchestras, and I think the board was looking for new ideas and directions on how to make CSO even more relevant to the community. We already have a fantastic product and a wonderful orchestra playing in a world-class hall. The Carmel community is so sophisticated and supportive of the arts. It’s a fun and exciting challenge to take this jewel and promote it, [to] get the story out to people who haven’t experienced it yet.”

Carmel Symphony Orchestra Holiday Season

Chastain continued, “There [are] a lot of opportunities and space for members of the community to get involved in a number of ways. We have our volunteer league and advisory groups. We are building out our education programming and even leadership programming as it relates to the arts. The arts are a great feeder for developing leaders, CEOs and such. CSO wants to become even more visible and relevant to the Carmel and Hamilton County communities and provide opportunities for people to be engaged in the arts, not just through the audience but through these volunteer and leadership opportunities as well.”

A Renewed Sense of Purpose

Over the last handful of years, CSO has welcomed people from outside of the 46032 zip code and has made a concerted effort to diversify its programming.

“One of my goals as executive director is to help make the symphonic experience more accessible to audiences,” Chastain pledged. “There is a love of the live musical experience, and I would like for people to have the experience of coming to the Palladium, hearing beautiful music, and being part of an ‘event.’ We are building out our programming before a concert starts and having more [pre-concert] events in the atrium and lobbies at the Palladium. People can come early, grab a drink, settle in and enjoy some chamber music or other artist events.”

Another major pre-concert initiative that Chastain has been pushing is promoting the guest artists and repertoire on Spotify through CSO’s social media so that patrons can become more familiar with them.

“I want the [CSO] experience to be more fun and engaging,” Chastain expressed. “If you would like to come dressed up along with a date or your family and make a special night out of it, or if you’d like to come and enjoy the symphony orchestra and be more casual, I want people to know that you don’t have to be formal or do anything special to come and enjoy CSO. I want to encourage audiences to feel comfortable coming, as they are not to be intimidated.”

Chastain also encouraged people to come early or stay later and take in some of the immediate amenities within walking distance of the Palladium to make a day or evening out of the experience.

“The Palladium is a gorgeous space, and there are a variety of places to go for dinner or a drink,” Chastain said. “There are often many different events happening at Carter Green [in front of the Palladium], and many of our guest artists head over to Divvy or Adagio at Hotel Carmichael after concerts and rehearsals. Carmel’s just a wonderful place for making memories, and I want the Carmel Symphony Orchestra to be even more [of] a part of that community experience.”

CSO Anne Marie Chastain

To build out and revise new and existing programming, Chastain will collaborate more with local arts organizations such as the Indiana Ballet Conservatory and the Center for the Performing Arts’ other resident companies.

Chastain elaborated, “We are talking with IBC and other resident companies and arts organizations in Carmel to continue building on an already robust arts community. CSO can help be a leader in continuing the story of the arts for our community and Hamilton County. We’re also connecting with the county’s public and private schools. We want to be even more connected with supporting the schools’ arts programs, and we want to bring more of their students and families to the Palladium.

“We are reworking our youth concerto competition and side-by-side programs this season,” Chastain continued. “This year, we will have our top four finalists play, and the audience will have a chance to vote along with a panelist of judges. Additionally, instead of working with just one school, we will be inviting all of the area high schools throughout Hamilton County to submit some of their top players to play with us. That’s going to be super fun and bring more students and families to the Palladium to be part of the education experience.”

CSO Anne Marie Chastain

When asked what makes CSO unique from other symphony orchestras, Chastain replied, “What makes CSO so special is the community it resides in and its love of the arts. It’s the home that we have in the Palladium and in the city of Carmel, which is so supportive of artistic excellence and live music experiences. I feel the most recent administration of CSO did a fantastic job elevating the artistic level, and I feel like my legacy could be elevating the education outreach and helping CSO to be even more relevant to the schools and in supporting music education and their families. We want to elevate CSO to an even higher level by bringing in even more world-class soloists and performers. If you’ve heard Maestro David Commanday and CSO perform recently, they sound wonderful and have really gelled. So, I feel that we are taking something already beautiful, and we’re going to make it shine even more so that more people can see the beauty and experience the brilliance of the Carmel Symphony Orchestra.”

For more information on upcoming schedules, events and how to support the Carmel Symphony Orchestra, visit carmelsymphony.org.