Maggie Place sang for the first time on stage when she was four years old. Throughout her childhood, she took singing lessons and participated in choruses, choirs and anything else that allowed her to exercise her voice.
However, her career interests lay elsewhere. In September, Place became Vice Dean for Student Success at Klein College of Media and Communication, where she oversees the well-being of students through career, internship and study-abroad programs.
However, Place still keeps in touch with her passion for singing. She volunteers in the Philly POPS’ Festival Chorus, which accompanies the Philly POPS Orchestra during performances. This month, Place is singing in “A Philly POPS Christmas,” the group’s annual holiday concert series.
Place auditioned for and joined the Festival Chorus in October 2015. She said it currently has 170 members, all of whom are volunteers like herself. Her favorite part about singing with the chorus is her colleagues, she added.
“Almost no one in the group is a professional singer, and so we all have very different lives,” Place said. “I get to meet people from all different walks of life who find music to be exciting and fulfilling.”
The concert series runs through Dec. 21 and features guest performers including actress and singer Mandy Gonzalez, popular YouTube duo The Melodica Men, The Philadelphia Boys Choir and Chorale and the Philadelphia-based African Episcopal Church of St. Paul Gospel Choir.
Stephen Weintraub, who attended the Dec. 11 concert, praised the show for the diversity of its content as well as its makeup, which consists of an eclectic range of songs, samples and tunes by diverse artists, from the classical composer George Frideric Handel to modern singer-songwriter Mariah Carey.
“Having singing in Spanish, having a gospel choir, having a couple of Hanukkah songs…having YouTube stars, I was really blown away by that,” Weintraub said.
Maria Bonadona, a retired teacher who attended the concert with her family, said that she loves music, and thought the diversity of its content broadened the appeal of the show.
“It’s all different kinds of music, and it just hits all ages and all different kinds of people,” Bonadona said. “I have my grandchildren here, I have my children, so it’s three different generations that are enjoying this today.”
Place said she thought some of the value of the concert lay in the act of singing itself, both for herself and for the audience who are encouraged to sing along to Christmas carols during one part of the show. She described it as “therapeutic.”
“The one thing that Philly POPS does as an orchestra that might be different from others is we do a lot of crowd participation,” Place said. “You look around, people are kind of singing along … and for that three-hour period when they’re in the show, they can kind of reconnect with that holiday spirit and you see people leaving with huge smiles on their faces.”
Place said she plans to “check out for a week” when Temple’s winter break begins on Dec 21. She added that the stress of the holiday season, and the relief she finds in singing during it, reminded her of advice she said she often gives to students.
“Find something that gives you some variety and allows you to develop the various passions in your life because you might love one thing, but you might still want to play guitar in a band, right?” she said.
“There’s so many facets to our lives,” she added, “And I believe in not becoming so pigeonholed in one.”