Hitting All the Right Notes
From the bright lights of the stage to the critical thinking of a marketing project, music is integral to this colleague's life.
It's not everyone who gets to sing to the Queen of England. But in June 2013, our own Katherine Fox Wolf, a senior marketing manager with Deloitte Services LP in New York, did just that. Joining with her choir, The Dessoff Choirs, and two other musical groups, Wolf participated in a week of rehearsals, culminating in a concert to commemorate the conclusion of Queen Elizabeth’s yearlong Diamond Jubilee. Filling London’s Royal Festival Hall with song, the choirs performed several major works, including all of the pieces originally featured at the queen’s coronation in 1952.
It was an impressive journey for anyone, and a long way from Wolf’s first theatrical appearance at age five on a small stage in Lansdale, PA. At the time, Wolf’s mother was the musical director of a local production of The Sound of Music and Wolf was cast as Gretl, the youngest of the Von Trapp family singers, the group on which the musical is based. After that, she says, she was hooked.
Today, Wolf, a lyric soprano, regularly sings on stage. She has sung her way through numerous other productions and choral groups, including another appearance in The Sound of Music — as Mother Abbess. Even as a non-professional singer, Wolf has performed at every major concert hall in New York. “You don’t always think that what you’re passionate about at age five is what you’ll love for the rest of your life,” she says. “But in my case, that’s what happened.”
After a childhood filled with music, Wolf got her college degree in vocal music and for a while thought she wanted to be a music teacher. She realized, though, that loving music didn’t necessarily mean she wanted a career in it. “So I changed my mind, got an MBA, and ended up here at Deloitte many years later,” she says, “happily ever after.”
All in the family
Wolf never gave up music — in fact, she even married it. Her husband is a professional musician; for the past 40 years, he has been the pianist for the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, has worked as a composer for television and film, and is currently the organist and choirmaster in the church the couple attends in Ardsley, NY, where she sings with the choir. Their son, Sam, is also a performer and is currently a music theatre major at the Conservatory of Music at Baldwin Wallace University in Berea, OH. For Wolf, being part of a musical family makes for a nice balance; she loves her work in marketing, but she also keeps music as part of her life.
“I don’t sing every day,” she says. “But I often do, especially when I’m preparing for a performance. I sing on my way to work, and I hum in my office as I work. I find that music actually helps me focus on the communications I’m preparing or the emails I’m writing because I tune out everything but my work.”
Wolf’s choir, the Dessoff Choirs, is one of New York City’s leading avocational musical groups. While they have their own musical season, they also regularly perform with the New York Philharmonic Orchestra and other New York and international musical institutions. The Dessoff Choirs concerts routinely sell out, and its January 2012 performance of Johann Sebastian Bach’s Mass in B Minor received a rave write-up in the Wall Street Journal, which called the production “wonderfully revealing.”
Through The Dessoff Choirs, Wolf has had the opportunity to sing all sorts of compositions. In 2004 at 2 a.m. on a Sunday, she found herself singing a mystical Sufi chant on the stage of Avery Fischer Hall at Lincoln Center, as a participant in the John Taverner composition The Veil of the Temple. The piece involves more than seven hours of singing and prayer as part of a multicultural dawn-worshipping ritual. Half the seats in the hall had been removed so that the audience members who had brought pillows could sleep on and off during the performance. “It was a fabulous experience,” Wolf says, “and very strange.”
More recently, she performed in the Theater at Madison Square Garden, where she and other Dessoff Choirs members provided the choral portion of Symphony of Zelda, a musical number based on the wildly popular 1980s video game “The Legend of Zelda.” “It was hilarious,” Wolf says. “I had no idea that this game existed, but there were 1,000 screaming fans in the audience, many of whom were in costume.”
It’s clear that Wolf’s openness and sense of humor, which enable her to shift from Bach cantatas to video game musical numbers, also allow her to be successful in Deloitte’s busy and interactive work environment. “I work on many different projects at once,” she says, “so I’m fortunate that I enjoy what I do. It’s also wonderful that Deloitte encourages people to pursue passions outside of the office. While my performances with Dessoff don’t interfere with my work schedule, I still greatly appreciate the support my colleagues give me. I think Deloitte understands that the nourishment I get from outside work feeds what I do here as well.”
And it’s a two-way street. Wolf has found that the skills she has acquired at Deloitte carry over into her work with the chorus. She manages The Dessoff Choirs’ educational outreach program, through which the chorus invites New York City high school students to audition for the chorus and to sing with it for a season. Wolf founded the program and uses her well-honed marketing skills to promote it. “Deloitte is such a great place for learning leadership skills,” Wolf says, “and what I’ve learned here comes in handy in whatever I’m doing.”
Currently, Wolf is working on FY14 marketing programs and providing other strategic marketing support. She also participated in “Wordplay,” The Dessoff Choirs’ midwinter festival. For one concert in the festival, the choir sang a wide range of choral works while Pulitzer Prize-winning Australian author Geraldine Brooks read from her own writings. “My life is never boring,” Wolf says, her eyes sparkling. “Even after all these years in music and in marketing, it all still feels new.”