Magazine article Humanities

In Focus: Deborah Watrous: Building Community

Magazine article Humanities

In Focus: Deborah Watrous: Building Community

Article excerpt

"MUSIC IS A SYMBOLIC LANGUAGE. The text for vocal music really interprets that abstract sound, kind of like a wonderful book does," says Deborah Watrous, director of the New Hampshire Humanities Council.

A former opera singer, Watrous has changed her focus from music to books. Since 1994, she has been running "What Is New Hampshire Reading?" a book discussion series that works with local libraries and organizations to bring scholars and the community together to study literature. Themes have included: "Journeys to the Edge," "Humor Here and There," and "Jane Austen and Her Time." For 2007, Watrous is creating a series on science fiction and fantasy works.

Before moving to New Hampshire, Watrous received her master's degree in music from the University of Cincinnati. The classically trained mezzo-soprano worked with the Cincinnati Opera Chorus for four seasons. "It was great fun to wear the elaborate wigs and costumes and work with some world-class musicians." She eventually looked to what she saw as more stable careers. She became an insurance claims adjuster and then membership director for New Hampshire Public Radio. In 1990 she joined New Hampshire's Humanities Council as a fundraiser. Over the next decade, Watrous brought in such people as writer Elie Wiesel, filmmaker Ken Burns, historian David McCullough, and Archbishop Desmond Tutu to speak at the council's annual dinner. After taking a three-year break to be with her children, Watrous returned in 2004 as executive director of the council.

Watrous is once again a public voice, this time on the radio on a monthly show called Human Ties. On the show, Watrous interviews scholars and local leaders in the humanities.

One of the interviews she recalls was with the University of New Hampshire's Judith Moyer, director of the theater production It Had to Be Done, So I Did It. …

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