A Life in Music

three men playing trumpets

Maria Metcalf Meyer

Maria Metcalf Meyer (photo credit – Kathi O’Leary Photography)

Maria Metcalf Meyer studied piano throughout most of her childhood. She remains grateful that music was regularly taught in her school and that her family valued music enough to provide private lessons. However, she found the piano a slight musical mismatch. Maria took lessons at a music school that also trained singers, and she found herself lingering outside the voice studio door to listen. “Vocal music always drew me in,” she says. At 15, Maria was finally allowed to begin formal voice lessons.

Maria later moved to the Bay Area to study music at San Francisco State University. Many of her college colleagues sang periodically with the San Francisco Symphony Chorus, and at their urging, she decided to audition. Although she was not initially selected, Maria wrote Chorus Director Vance George (1983–2006) to express her gratitude for the opportunity and to seek suggestions for improvement.

After focusing on Maestro George’s recommendations, Maria felt ready to audition again. Her second attempt was an astounding success. Although she auditioned for a role as a substitute, her position quickly became permanent, and she remained an active member of the San Francisco Symphony Chorus for the next 27 years. Throughout her tenure with the chorus, Maria simultaneously held a full-time job at SF State—a balancing act made possible by the support of Robert Corrigan, the President of SF State, and his wife, Joyce Corrigan, a member of the San Francisco Symphony Board of Governors.

Maria is reluctant to select a single favorite memory from her time with the Chorus: the sheer diversity of the experience still amazes her. Performing and recording Mahler during Maestro Thomas’ era was thrilling. A sharp contrast was provided shortly after Michael Tilson Thomas began his tenure as Music Director, when she recalls performing alongside members of The Grateful Dead: “I have never heard a standing ovation as I did that day!”

Maria also values her current connection with the San Francisco Symphony and Chorus—as an audience member. “You have so much perspective. You get the see the final product. You can learn so much from the pre-concert talks. It’s a huge privilege.”

Inspired by her life in music, Maria has chosen to make a gift to the Symphony from her retirement accounts. She finds that it is imperative that the Symphony and Chorus continue. “I support the idea of a city with a symphony, educating citizens in a unique way, giving children and adults alike access to classical music. But our Symphony is even more: it’s a vital force—and so important to maintain.”