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Meet Maria Zouves

Today we’d like to introduce you to Maria Zouves.

Maria, we appreciate you taking the time to share your story with us today. Where does your story begin?
I grew up in a big Greek family in the Tampa Bay Area of Florida and as a soprano, sang in churches and synagogues to put myself through college. I was always interested in business as well so administration and office workers were also part of my life.

After making my debut at New York City’s Carnegie Hall in 1997, I sang lead soprano roles in many opera houses across the U.S., such as Baltimore Opera, Memphis Opera, Orlando Opera, and the Pittsburgh Opera, and also performances in England, Italy, Germany, Brazil and Eastern European countries such as Romania, Slovakia, and the Czech Republic.

In 1996 in New York City, I married legendary opera singer Sherrill Milnes and in 2000, we were blessed with the birth of our son, Theophilos. At that same time, I turned to my passion for business and arts administration, founding the VOICExperience Programs with my husband as Artistic Director. In that decade, I became a Vice President for the Straz Center for the Performing Arts in Tampa.

Writing, directing, and teaching allowed me to work as Associate Editor of Classical Singer Magazine as well as serve on the Faculty of programs and direct events internationally, including in Isreal, Canada, Puerto Rico, Italy, and Finland.

Always connected to my roots as a Greek American, I recorded a CD of classical and popular Greek songs
entitled “With Flowers Crowned,” available on Video Artists International (VAI Music).

Would you say it’s been a smooth road, and if not what are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced along the way?
Working in the arts, especially the non-profit world, is always a challenge in any market or timeframe. It requires a great deal of dedication and fortitude. The work itself, even from a business perspective, is not a 40-hour-a-week experience, but a lifestyle and life essence.

Juggling family and friend experiences can be challenging and it requires a great deal of understanding from everyone in your sphere. One finds that an extension of friends and family becomes mostly colleagues and patrons, which can be a wonderful thing.

But an art director and administrator must find ways to turn off the switch from time to time to mitigate burnout.

That’s true with any passion that becomes your life’s work.

As you know, we’re big fans of you and your work. For our readers who might not be as familiar what can you tell them about what you do?
As both Sherrill and I decided to move away from performing we chose to share knowledge and expertise with the next generation of singers and co-founded the Sherrill Milnes VOICE Programs which includes the VOICExperience Foundation and as of 2012, the Savannah VOICE Festival.

This August, we celebrate ten seasons of opera, musical theatre, and song. Sherrill and I give master classes, judge competitions, offer mentoring, and provide training for emerging young artists. We were introduced to Savannah by several people in the operatic world at a time we were looking for a place to make a difference.

We met community leaders and were welcomed, so we built our arts initiative here and launched the Savannah VOICE Festival.

We are very active through our VOICE Programs with our community friends as we contribute to other arts organizations that pertain to the performing arts and arts education: The Jewish Educational Alliance, The Demere Center for Living with Hospice Savannah, The Davenport House Museum, the Telfair Museum, as well as other outreach projects like the DEEP Center, and Chatham County schools.

Savannah VOICE Festival is a 501(c) 3 tax-exempt nonprofit arts organization in the state of Georgia. The Festival brings classical vocal excellence to the Savannah area through a two-week celebration of concerts, events, and educational presentations during the month of August and throughout the year.

Focusing on arts awareness and audience development in the performing arts, it offers music from opera, musical
theatre, and popular songs. The Tenth Annual Savannah VOICE Festival takes place from Aug. 7-21, 2022.

What quality or characteristic do you feel is most important to your success?
The Festival’s main quality is the high level of performance art within the size and framework of the city.

Its accessibility, while offering thought-provoking and inspirational performances, is what makes it feel like a community, rather than just a one-time social or musical event.

Pricing:

  • Some events are free and open to the public – supported by donors, grants, and sponsorships, and other tickets are priced from $15 up to gala events at $125.

Contact Info:

  • Website: www.savannahvoicefestival.org (For a full lineup of all Savannah VOICE Festival concerts, performances, master classes, other events, and information, to become a VOICE member, or to purchase tickets please call 855.766.7372).

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