Ana Papakhian Appointed Executive Director of Camerata Pacifica

By Joanne A Calitri   |   August 15, 2023
Ana Papakhian Appointed Executive Director of Camerata Pacifica

In announcing its 2023-24 and 34th season programming, Camerata Pacifica’s founder and Artistic Director Adrian Spence delightedly shared the appointment of Ana Papakhian as its new executive director. 

Papakhian is well-known in the classical music world here, and I would add nationally as well, with 27 years of experience in the field, most recently as the chief marketing and communications officer for the Music Academy (MA) in Montecito since 2014. Her pedigree background starts with a BA and MA in vocal performance from Indiana University Jacobs School of Music. After performing at the New Orleans Opera, she joined the Piatigorsky Foundation in NYC and was the personal assistant to Marilyn Horne

In 1997, Papakhian found her way to our town when Horne became the Music Academy’s Vocal Program director. She moved here permanently in 2014 to work for the MA. In between Horne and the MA, she was the director of communications for the Cleveland Orchestra and the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra. Her nonprofit work includes the Association for Women in Communications – Santa Barbara Board Member, the Interlochen Center for the Arts Engagement Council vice president, and a member of the Santa Barbara Behavioral Wellness Commission.

Having known Papakhian since 2000, I called to congratulate her on her new position. We met at her office and talked:

Q: How did the position for executive director at Camerata Pacifica come about?

A: I heard that the position had become available in January this year. Adrian Spence is a friend and neighbor, so I called his cell phone immediately to inquire. I had been to many Camerata Pacifica concerts in the past and knew some of the musicians. I respect Adrian’s sensibility about music so much. He has an innate way of articulating what’s relevant about music to others. And their quality spoke to me – I wanted to be a part of presenting frequent concerts of the highest professional echelon. The idea of expanding my orbit to more communities (Thousand Oaks, San Marino/Pasadena, and Downtown Los Angeles) was really appealing. After Adrian told me about the dedicated board members from all the different locations, I was hooked! I’m very grateful for the opportunity.

What is your primary focus for the organization? 

My laser vision is on fundraising to support these incredible musicians. When they are playing chamber music with artists they connect with, there is nothing more spectacular. It’s a feeling you’ll never get from watching your phone – the sound waves in the room and being with other people – it’s in some ways a spiritual experience. We need more wonder and awe in the world to uplift us and set our imaginations on fire.

Will you be introducing new outreach and educational events? 

The astounding thing that Camerata Pacifica has already significantly invested in is called The Nightingale Channel. It’s a video channel set up for streaming in hospitals. There have been years of curating the greatest concerts with brilliant video and audio, so that patients and visitors can access them anytime they want solace, comfort, entertainment, or just to be soothed. This program is already in several major hospital systems, and we get inquiries often to implement it. If you want to see some of the videos that are on the channel, check out our YouTube page – we have over 2.5 million views!

Your thoughts on the future of music performance?

During the [Covid] lockdown, we streamed music performances for our patrons while I was at the MA, and Camerata Pacifica was doing the “live at home” concerts as well. We all learned that the digital medium in music is here to stay. It is something that we will continue to focus on, and Camerata Pacifica has invested in quite a bit. 

And access to classical music…

It is really important to me. Our tickets are an expense for people because it is used to pay our musicians, the venues, programming, and operating costs. However, I always extend invitations to people and groups relative to the performances being held. We work with senior living communities. We have a complimentary ticketing policy for people to try a performance for free! 

How about Adrian Spence’s pre-concert educational talk?

He has a gift to articulate the relevance of the music for the audience and explain why the music is programmed together for each performaance and how it is relevant to our society right now. He is brilliant at programming and why it is programmed together. When you unlock that for people, it is fascinating and makes it an informed experience.

What is the coolest thing about your job? 

It will be getting to hear some of the greatest chamber music performances in the world and meeting lots of new people. After the pandemic, it feels like such a luxury to make new friends!

How did music find you?

My love of music starts with my dad, a composition major in college who played the clarinet. My mother played violin. They got me started on piano lessons when I was 9, and I joined a children’s choir. I loved singing with other kids, and we got to perform in local operas. Being around senior opera singers, I began emulating them, studied opera in high school, in boarding school, and then did my BA and MA in it. I am a lyric soprano. One of my favorite opera parts was performing Esmeralda in The Bartered Bride

What do you listen to at work? 

Occasionally I like to listen to new classical music recordings on Spotify. I discovered the Aizuri Quartet that way, who have become a favorite, but mostly stream compositions that are coming up on our season. Flutist Emi Ferguson is the music director of our Baroque series, so if I need to be motivated with high-energy, virtuosic playing, I play her Bach recording. Wow!

What are you looking forward to in your new position?

It’s a real honor to have entered into the realm of leading a nonprofit, especially in Santa Barbara, where there are so many. I’m finding a lot of joy in learning how to manage an organization. There are so many questions to ask yourself: “How can I positively impact the culture?” “How can I help improve communication and motivate others?” But most of all, I’m grateful to be working in the field I love – classical music. Once you are bitten by that bug, there is nothing like it.  



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