How Madeline Adams (SF22) Made Her Way from Student Theater Productions to the Santa Fe Opera

November 16, 2023 | By Margaret Merritt (SF22)

Madeline Adams (SF22) believes in pursuing one’s passions, and in her case, it’s art. This has been the connecting thread throughout her life, from discovering her love for performing onstage in high school to directing theatrical productions in college to joining the Santa Fe Opera post-graduation as an Opera Club intern—a position that led to a full-time job as a development assistant at the storied arts institution. “Finding joy in what you’re doing and supporting,” she says, “is what makes it feel worthwhile.” 

Madeline Adams (SF22)

Adams, who grew up in the Detroit metro area, is a former high school theater kid who fell in love with St. John’s while attending Summer Academy, the school’s pre-college program for high school students. During her sophomore year at SJC in 2019, she assumed a leadership role with Chrysostomos, the Santa Fe campus performing arts group. She discovered her talent for stage management while out of the spotlight: “I figured out what I loved,” she says, “was supporting performers and directing and having a hand in the overall process.”

Aside from her involvement in Chrysostomos, Adams initially had a hard time adjusting to certain segments of the Program, especially the philosophy-heavy ones. But soon, she found that the school’s fixed curriculum was a wonderful space to engage with her interests if she simply changed the way she viewed the text. “One of my favorite tutors, the late Cary Stickney, once helped me when I told him I was having difficulty with the more philosophical parts of the Program,” she recalls. “He asked what I was passionate about, and I said art, and he told me to look at everything through the lens of art.”

Outside the classroom, Adams spent much of her free time enjoying the Santa Fe Opera. She knew that was where she wanted to land after graduation, so after receiving her diploma she worked as a retail associate at the city’s Georgia O’Keeffe Museum while applying for different opera internships. She eventually landed a spot as an Opera Club Intern in June 2023; her role involved helping with the institution’s ticket database, greeting VIPs as they came to shows, and meeting a wide range of people involved in the opera, as well as helping the company’s development staff.

In just a few short months, the Santa Fe Opera promoted Adams to the position of development assistant. As well as continuing to work with the opera’s database, she now helps with promoting the opera and conducting necessary departmental research. The best part of the role for her is that she can also interact with the organization’s other branches. “I love learning about the bones of artistic development, but I also love finding time to learn about what other departments are doing and the kind of tasks they are managing. I have learned about everything from submitting credit statements to formatting business proposals,” Adams says.

Adams appreciates the Santa Fe Opera’s close-knit community—from the patrons who return annually to the many people supporting each production, down to the crew running the subtitles—which she compares to St. John’s. She says that the Program taught her how to collaborate with a diverse array of people with wide ranging interests, which has been fundamental for building bridges within her new company: “I believe that the ability to listen well and support what others have to say is crucial for the progression of a project or idea, and I fully credit my undergraduate experience for teaching me how important that is.”

Going forward, Adams plans to pursue a career in arts development and dreams of someday returning to onstage directing. Supporting the arts, she says, “is what I want to do for the rest of my life. I want to be the investor.”