Sitting in his office at the Green Music Center, Emmanuel Morlet appears relaxed and at home.
The artistic and managing director of Sonoma State University's new 1,400-seat Weill Hall was born and raised in Paris. For the past 15 years, he and his family have lived in New York City.
While growing up, however, he spent large stretches of time in the region around Clermont-Ferrand, a city in the heart of France known for its famous tire company, Michelin, and its food production.
“My grandparents were growing corn and wheat and making wine, and they had apple and peach trees,” said the 45-year-old. “As I kid, I spent vacations there and worked in the fields.”
The region sits on a fertile, flat plain with a river running through it and a chain of dormant and extinct volcanos encircling it.
“It looks a little like this,” he said, pointing to the rolling hills just outside his office window.
For the past 14 years, Morlet has worked at the French Embassy in New York, where he served as director of the Music Office for the Cultural Services.
“It was a fascinating job,” he said. “We not only brought French culture here but worked on collaborations between American and French artists.”
Collaboration is going to be a key part of his new job as well, as he attempts to balance the needs of the university with the demands of the community.
“We're not Carnegie Hall, we're not in a major city, and we have a brand to develop,” he said. “We have to be on the map even more and collaborate with other people.”
Until July, Morlet is spending about half of his time in Rohnert Park and half in New York, where his wife, Kathryn, and two children — Adrien, 10, and Claire Lily, 7 — are finishing up the school year.
“The kids are New Yorkers,” he said. “But they love the country. ... They love it here.”