After a national search, the Symphony New Hampshire Board of Trustees named Marc Thayer the nonprofit’s new executive director this June.
The board liked Thayer’s varied background; he worked with both the New World Symphony in Miami (1995 to 2002) and the St. Louis Symphony (2002 to 2011) in various roles, and most recently, he was employed by American Voices (2011 to 2016), where he managed cultural programs for the U.S. Department of State and coordinated performing arts and education projects in the Middle East, Africa and Southeast Asia.
He started July 5 and spoke via phone about his experience so far and what he’s looking forward to in his future with the symphony.
What’s your first week been like?
On Friday I met the mayor, and this morning I met with the Nashua Arts Commission. I’m getting to know our board members, supporters … and the people involved in making all of our programs and educational projects possible. I’ve got lots to learn and catch up on, but I’m enjoying it.
You relocated from St. Louis. Why’d you want to make the move?
Growing up, I spent lots of summers with my parents in the Adirondacks, going to the Adirondack Festival of American Music and participating in its student programs. … I taught for two years at Camp Encore-Coda in Southwest Maine. I’ve always known it’s a very vibrant region for music and arts, and I really wanted to get back into the orchestra world — being involved with a community, doing educational work and finding ways to use music as a way to build community relationships. This orchestra, I think, is doing that and has the potential to do a lot more. … It also has a terrific board — I can’t believe how much they do — and a very dedicated staff. … The board was very clear about how much progress the orchestra has made the last 10 years. … So many orchestras are perpetually in a financial crisis, and this organization has worked very hard to avoid that.
What do you hope to do over the next few years?
I’ll be spending the next few months getting to know the people and the community, talking to constituents about what we feel our priorities are and how we can expand or sustain what we’re doing. We’re fiscally very solid, and we’re going to maintain that. I think there’s still a lot of potential to expand in some areas. … The orchestra’s very active in other cities, and so we’re also hoping to have even more of a presence outside Nashua.
What do you think of Nashua so far?
There’s a lot going on in the Nashua arts community, and it’s exciting to be a part of that. Even compared to St. Louis, New York or Chicago, these small cities actually often have more exciting, more vibrant arts communities. … In my experience, in the large cities, the arts are either so expensive or so far away from where you live and work. It’s not like in Nashua, where you can be at a museum or concert or at different types of exhibits within five or 10 minutes. For example, there are concerts on Thursdays at the [Nashua] library. It’s so easy to access. … [Main Street] has a vibrant nightlife, with live music and great bars downtown. I was impressed to see how much is going on. Many cities close after 5 p.m.
Have you met much with [Music Director] Jonathan McPhee yet?
We’ve had many conversations the past few months. … People have told me that the orchestra sounds 100 times better than it did 10 years ago, and that he did a lot to improve the quality and the experience. … I know people enjoy the fact he’s down-to-earth. He’ll explain the music to the audience … and people enjoy the concerts a lot more because of that.
Tell me about the first event of the season, The Essential Ring: Part II.
Our first concert is on Oct. 2. … We’ve hired a bunch of singers and we’re doing a two-hour version of a Wagner opera. … This is a great way to experience Wagner’s work, but in a condensed version. It’s not nearly as expensive as going to New York City, but we’ll still have a world-class group of singers joining the symphony. … We’re trying to redefine what an orchestra is and how an orchestra interacts with a community. Even if you think you know what an orchestra does, people should come out and see, because we do things a little different. We welcome families with children. It doesn’t matter what you wear, and it doesn’t matter when you clap. … All you have to do is sit back, relax and listen to the music.