Alumni Voices

Hall of Memories

Annie Burns reflects on her time at Meadow Brook Hall

A woman standing in a theatre

College of Arts and Sciences

icon of a calendarApril 13, 2022

icon of a pencilBy Michael Downes

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During the chilling winter months in Michigan, Annie Burns, CAS ’82, found solace at Meadow Brook Hall’s Christmas walk. She’d see the lines of people over the bridge and through the woods. Inside, she was greeted with the dim glow of Christmas lights and trees in every room. She could hear the Christmas music playing in the background and the crackling of the fireplaces throughout the hall. But what really got her excited?

“It was the smell,” says Burns. “That smell, it was magical. It was beyond a Hallmark movie to say the least. Those are the memories that will never leave me. It was the gift we were giving to the people walking through.”

Born in Detroit, Annie comes from a rich Irish background, with roots in Cork, Ireland. Her family had a hand in creating Corktown downtown, before moving to Rochester when Annie was in her teens. Going from the big city to something smaller was jarring, but she stumbled upon a building that would change her life forever.

A woman sitting in a theatre, surrounded by red seats

“At 14 years old, I found out about Meadow Brook Hall and headed over there,” says Burns. “I was blown away at how big the building was. I knocked on that huge front door and a lady answered. I told her a little bit about myself and asked if they had any volunteer opportunities.”

“As soon as I walked in, it just felt like home to me,” she continues. “You can’t walk into the hall and not fall in love.”

Burns remained a volunteer with the hall until she was 26. Throughout the years, her roles changed. Starting as an envelope stuffer, she moved up to answering phones, giving tours, giving in-depth detail about the art, history and architecture of the hall and eventually having a hand in planning events, which was integral for her future career.

After years of wandering the halls of Meadow Brook Hall, you can now find Burns inside the Flagstar Strand Theatre for the Performing Arts in Pontiac. The historical venue puts on dance performances, concerts and shows. As the theatre’s development director, Burns is in charge of developing events and shows, working with donors and focusing on increasing the theatre’s income through grants and sponsorships. Her goal is to have the theatre lead the charge for revamping Pontiac.

“We want the theater to become the link to the arts within Pontiac,” Burns says. “We want people to want to come to Pontiac and see all the changes that have happened within the city. I believe that the city will become the place for cultural creatives and artists to land and grow, to lead the comeback.”

Learn more about Flagstar Strand Theatre for the Performing Arts.

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