Marisa Robinson is the Executive Director of the Wilmington Concert Opera, as well as this week’s #PeopleOfWilmDE! Read her story below:
“I moved to North Wilmington with my husband for his work (he’s the rabbi at Congregation Beth Emeth). We met at Oberlin College in Oberlin, OH, where I studied chemistry and music, and then went to grad school in Cincinnati. Fun fact: I have a PhD in Pharmaceutical Sciences, and cosmetics and skin are my specialization, but I never stopped singing. When we moved to Wilmington, I started singing as my primary occupation, and then eventually started Wilmington Concert Opera with another opera singer.
After more than a decade, Wilmington is home. When you live in a community for this long, you can see the connections between people and places, and it’s fascinating.
Wilmington is perfectly sized and located for a group like my company, Wilmington Concert Opera. There are so many wonderfully talented musicians living on the I-95 corridor between Baltimore and New Jersey who are always looking for more rewarding employment. Also, as I mentioned before, this is a very interconnected city and those connections help WCO do its work better. It’s easier to network in a medium sized community, I think.
I spent quite a few years on the planning committee of the #MillSummit, including two years as chair of the Cultural Impact committee. I sit on the board of the Quaker Hill Historic Preservation Foundation as well; West Center City is home to Wilmington Concert Opera and so many other groups working for the health of the city and community. I see so many people, especially younger people, getting more energized and enthusiastic about getting involved in politics and the life and redevelopment of the city.
As a performer myself who employs other performers, Covid continues to be a concern, unfortunately. We’ve made a lot of creative decisions in the last 18 months to keep performers and audiences safe – our sold out Pirates and Mermaids concert on the Kalmar Nyckel this June, for example.
I always say that you’re not a real Delawarean/Wilmingtonian until you have your own Joe Biden story, so here’s mine: I was helping cook a dinner for the Arden Dinner Guild in 2012 and someone from the Guild came dashing into the basement all aflutter and exclaimed, “Just wanted to let you all know the Vice President is in the building.” With no context, I assumed they meant of the Arden Club, so I just went on cooking. Suddenly, Joe and his granddaughter appeared in the kitchen, having ditched his Secret Service attachment so that he could show her the Ardens like a native. He ate a cookie, met everyone, and told John Dennison, “If I had your hair, I’d be President right now.”
A cause in the area that doesn’t get talked about nearly enough is Jewish Family Services. They have resettled refugees from all over the world into our community. Their work is so important and they can always use more assistance, whether volunteers or donations. Otherwise, some of my proudest moments are seeing the DNC and the President celebrating his election from the Chase Center was amazing. It was so great to see our city on the national news.
Wilmington has so much going on – it doesn’t matter what you like, we have it. Arts and culture, history, fine dining, live music, sports (okay, we don’t have any national level teams, but we have Mr. Celery!). Don’t think of Wilmington as a place to work, it’s absolutely a place to live and a place to make an impact.”