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Pro Musica names new artistic director

Anne-Marie McDermott is the newly appointed artistic director of Santa Fe Pro Musica. (Courtesy of Matteo Trisolini)

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Anne-Marie McDermott is a creative fireball, a tornado of ambition, dreams and musicality.

The New York pianist, conductor and director has been appointed the second artistic director of Santa Fe Pro Musica in the organization’s 38-year history.

McDermott will follow in the steps of Thomas O’Connor, the chamber music group’s founder, who retired this year.

Already the artistic director of the Bravo! Vail Music and Key Largo’s Ocean Reef Chamber music festivals; as well as the curator for chamber music of San Diego’s Mainly Mozart Festval and a robust recording schedule; McDermott will add the Santa Fe post to more than 25 years of a life in music.

The pianist has performed with Santa Fe Pro Musica multiple times over the last five years, most recently both conducting and performing two Mozart piano concertos last November.

“I’m absolutely thrilled,” McDermott said in a phone interview from New York. “This is an organization that I fell in love with. I felt such a connection with Tom and the aesthetic of the organization. And I’ve come back many times.”

A self-described workaholic and overachiever, McDermott juggles her commitments with the self-discipline of an army.

“My sister’s violin teacher said the greater your discipline, the greater your freedom,” she said.

She began piano lessons at 5 when she was growing up on Long Island. Now a self-described extrovert, she says she was a shy child.

Neither of her parents was musical. But a classical concert with her mother when she was just 4 proved a turning point.

“I remember seeing a black, shiny piano on stage under the spotlight,” she said. “I thought this was the most exciting, glamorous thing ever.”

By the time McDermott turned 10, she was studying at the Manhattan School of Music on Saturdays and practicing from four to five hours a day. By 16, she was studying there full time. She supported herself by accompanying soloists, absorbing repertoire wherever she went.

Her mother’s death from breast cancer when she was 14 hijacked everything, triggering a rebellion at 18 from delayed grief.

McDermott walked away from the keyboard. The Manhattan School of Music threw her out.

“I never studied again,” she said.

She began playing more concerts, opening her first bank account at 19.

An invitation from the director of New York’s Young Concert Artists to audition turned McDermott’s life around. She won several awards and a management contract.

She never thought about joining management until Bravo! Vail chose her out of 80 applicants.

“You don’t go to school to be an artistic director,” McDermott said. “You learn on the job. You learn step by step, and you listen to people.”

She hopes to expand the number of concerts at Santa Fe Pro Musica as time and budgets allow. The company canceled its spring season because of COVID-19 but raised $60,000 to continue paying its musicians.

McDermott wants to continue pulling the double duty of performer/conductor and hopes to expand Pro Musica’s soloist pool through her own musical contacts. She also will continue the organization’s commitment to women composers.

“I want to make (Pro Musica) a musical hot spot,” she said.

She and her husband are seeking a second home in Santa Fe.

“When my husband and I got married, he said to me, ‘All I ask is that I be No. 2, because I know that music is No. 1.’ That made me love him even more.”

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