Special Reports

MA Top 30 Professional: Marna Seltzer

December 5, 2023 | By John Fleming

Artistic and Executive Director
Princeton University Concerts

Since arriving in 2010, Artistic and Executive Director Marna Seltzer has pushed the venerable Princeton University Concerts, founded in 1894, to be more audience friendly. “I think this season looks completely different,” Seltzer says. “The music is still great, but now we are trying to extend a hand to people who feel like the world of classical music is maybe a party to which they were not invited before.”

PUC’s 2023-24 lineup has the usual complement of stellar artists—pianist Hélène Grimaud, the Hagen String Quartet, violinist Isabelle Faust—but their concerts are sprinkled amid less conventional fare. They range from Do-Re-Meet: Pre-Concert Speed Dating to Live Music Meditation. This last is free and combines guided meditation with music by top-level artists, such as Chanticleer and harpsichordist Jean Rondeau. “It’s really about focused listening,” Seltzer says. “You don’t need to be a serious meditator. You don’t need to be a serious concertgoer. Just come with an open mind. Honestly, every time we do it, I think, why aren’t all concerts like this?”

The pandemic led to the creation of a series called Healing with Music. It features concert-conversation programs based on health and wellness issues: Living with cancer (with Grammy winner Jon Batiste and his wife, writer Suleika Jaouad); anxiety and depression (pianist Jonathan Biss and writer Adam Haslett); and Parkinson’s Disease (Mark Morris Dance Group).

In January, PUC will present the U.S. premiere of the Mahler Chamber Orchestra’s “Future Presence: An Immersive Installation in Virtual Reality,” with music of Mozart, Mendelssohn, and Ives as experienced through a VR headset. “With the headset on, you listen to a top-notch recording and have freedom to move,” Seltzer says. “You can walk around, you feel like you can touch the musicians, you can dance, you can conduct. It’s a way to have the Mahler Chamber Orchestra on a season when they’re not really here.




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