For the last four or five years, Sarah Baxter has had an opportunity to get to know some of the world’s most talented young artists in a way few audience members do: by welcoming them into her home.
As a volunteer hostess for Young Texas Artists (YTA), Baxter provides participants in the organization’s music competition a welcoming, convenient place to stay while they’re in Conroe. “It’s fun to meet them; they’re from all over the world,” Baxter says. “You learn a little about their growing up years and how they learned about music. When my mother was alive I had her come over. People have played the piano and harp. They’ve sung. It was fun.”
Those experiences were among the reasons that Baxter agreed to take her volunteer service for YTA to a new level this year. Baxter is now chairman of YTA Circle, a special YTA group that provides supporters with events they can enjoy and opportunities to experience classical music—and all it has to offer—in new ways.
“It’s a group of people who are interested in classical music and want to support efforts to encourage any form of that music in this part of the world, particularly in Montgomery County,” Baxter says.
Since the group was founded in 2014, one of YTA Circle’s key roles has been serving as a classical musical connection for Montgomery County residents.
As the group’s chairman, Baxter will be working to keep that connection strong. “What I’d really like to do is present interesting evenings for members and create greater awareness, enthusiasm, and membership.”
Baxter is off to a strong start. On Jan. 24, the group presented a panel discussion featuring leaders from three area performing arts organizations. Two of the speakers are new to their positions.
The panel featured Heather Orr, the new artistic director of Montgomery County Choral Society and head director of choral activities at Montgomery High School; Jacob Sustaita, the new associate director of Conroe Symphony Orchestra; and Darryl Bayer, artistic director of The Woodlands Symphony Orchestra.
Each speaker shared information about their organization, along with their individual philosophies, their goals, and what they hope to contribute to Montgomery County this year in terms of classical music.
The evening also featured an outstanding performance by the Montgomery High School Madrigals, led by Orr.
Baxter intends to arrange a wide variety of programming this year. Currently, she’s in communication with the artistic director of Opera in the Heights, based in north Houston, about coming to speak to YTA Circle with one or two of the opera members.
Life in Montgomery County
For Baxter, who grew up in Port Arthur, Texas, Montgomery County has been an important part of her life for several decades. Currently, she’s an associate broker for Better Homes & Gardens Real Estate in The Woodlands and lives in Conroe’s Panorama Village community.
Baxter got her start in real estate 16 years ago and also owns a staging service named Stage Crew. “Real estate is rewarding because every transaction is different,” Baxter says. “There’s that feeling that you’ve accomplished something, whether buying a house or selling one. You’re helping people with that next step in their lives.”
For her, it also has been fulfilling to support the performing arts in her community. Baxter spent years volunteering for Montgomery County Performing Arts Society (MCPAS) and once served as its president. In fact, it was her role with MCPAS that connected Baxter with YTA and Susie Pokorski, YTA’s president and CEO.
“I thought YTA represented a great opportunity for young musicians to have some exposure and the chance to be judged by qualified individuals so they can get feedback on their skills,” Baxter says.
In addition to real estate, Baxter enjoys walking, yoga, relaxing with her five cats—and of course, supporting the performing arts and emerging young artists. For information about hosting YTA contestants in your home, like she does, call (936) 756-7017.
Membership in YTA Circle is $55 per couple (singles are encouraged to bring a guest), which includes access to four programs per year, along with discounts for YTA’s annual Bach, Beethoven & Barbecue benefit gala.