Indy Like a Local: Michael Pettry

Who is Michael?

Executive Director of the Indianapolis Symphonic Choir

Q. Tell us about the Indianapolis Symphonic Choir and what makes it special.

A. Would you believe me if I said that it never feels like going to work at the Symphonic Choir? I’m surrounded by some of the most inspiring and innovative thinkers in the creative field, and our raison d’etre is to create and perform truly moving concerts. With more than 200 singers reaching 25,000 people each year through concerts, national TV broadcasts, international recordings, and concert touring (most recently, Carnegie Hall), the Symphonic Choir is a rush of a place to work every day. Gorgeous, lush music. The best colleagues and musicians in the field. And meanwhile, we have the best playlists buzzing around our open-concept office space. 

Indianapolis Symphonic Choir

Q. You live in Fletcher Place, which has grown quite a bit in recent years. What’s it been like to see your neighborhood come to life in recent years and undergo big changes?

A. Fletcher Place is the perfect mix of diversity. Old and new. Historic preservation of our Indy heritage juxtaposed next to new builds. All ages, backgrounds, vocations, and avocations. In spite of all the tasty steps Fletcher Place has taken – and the national attention it garners – it still is a residential family where neighbors take care of neighbors. There are frequent block parties. A neighboring 12-year-old girl bakes (the best!) chocolate chip cookies that she sells to support area nonprofits. And the Hoosier “I got your back” mentality abounds in Fletcher Place. But thank goodness we have gyms, parks, and the Pacers Bikeshare in Fletcher Place, too. With all of the great foodie haunts in the neighborhood, one must mix-in equal parts of old-fashioned sweating, too! 

Q. What are your go-to restaurants in Indy? Do you have a favorite dish at any of them?

A. You’re killing me smalls – this is like picking a favorite child! Anything Abbi Merriss creates at Bluebeard should be given a standing ovation, but especially when she graces us with her house-cured-smoked salmon. Oh, and the lamb! Oh, and the ostrich tenderloin… Serious props to Napolese, too, though, because their pizza (Hamaker’s Corner is loaded with my faves) and salads (run, don’t walk, to their nearest Double Chopped Salad) were the foundation of our wedding rehearsal dinner. Insider secret: Sit at the pizza bar, and you’ll get extra special attention from the culinary team, and maybe even a taste of something they’re working on for future menus.


Q. Any particular spots you favor for a nightcap?

A. Nothing beats a classic martini served in a classic vessel at a classic Indy restaurant like Harry & Izzy’s. We love to travel to Napa/Sonoma, and the wine menu at Meridian Restaurant offers the perfect chance to explore new bottles. Their half-price Wednesday – also known as “Winesdays” in our lexicon – give us an opportunity try new vintages. All in the name of research, of course.

Q. If you’re in need of some fresh air, where might you go?

A. I’m a Hoosier from birth, but I love being on the water. If you’ve never made the easy trek to Eagle Creek Park in the northwest corner of Indy, get thee hence! I’ve been taking sailing lessons at their marina for the past three years, warmer temps and wind providing of course. Since I was 12 years old, I’ve loved the MG British racing car. Although it’s still within Indy, a drive in my MGA around the Traders Point corner of Marion County feels like a quick escape to the lush greens of Indiana’s countryside.

Q. Do you have a favorite neighborhood or area – aside from Fletcher Place – where you like to hang out or spend the day?

A. Three Indy areas I’m apt to frequent: Fountain Square, Garfield Park (such intentional beauty), and the Butler University campus (go Dawgs!).

Q. As someone in the arts industry, you must have favorite events or organizations (other than the Symphonic Choir, of course!) What performances or shows are on your calendar this season?

A. During the holidays, you’ll be wise to catch both the annual Yuletide Celebration and Handel’s Messiah with the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra. I think a night out at The Cabaret makes for the perfect date night and somehow transports me to the Big Apple without packing a single bag.

Q. If you’re a shopper, what locally owned boutiques do you frequent?

A. I’m impressed with the strides Indy has made in the past five years when it comes to locally owned biz. And it’s not just your typical, everyday options. Here are my top 5 choices:


Q. Have you recently discovered any hidden gems in the city?

A. Shhhh … why are you asking me this?! If I have to let everyone else in three highly off-the-radar gems in Indy, let’s stick to physical activity and culture. In this case, namely art and architecture. A stroll around the grounds at the IMA is completely Zen and inspiring with the mix of art and environment. I love a walk or not-too-brisk run along historic Meridian Street – houses that have played home to governors, writers, senators, and Indianapolis’ legacy. Similarly, the boulevards and fountains, equally as beautiful with the snow of winter, of historic Woodruff Place are magical.

Q. Where do you like to take out-of-town guests, especially if they have never been to Indy before?

A. I hope they’re well rested, because I’m going to take them on a journey. A cocktail at Bluebeard. A bike ride on the Cultural Trail (it’s a heck of a lot more than a fancy sidewalk, trust me!). A homemade milkshake from Traders Point Creamery. An evening concert or cultural event – good luck picking just one.

Q. What would you do on your ideal day in Indy?

A. Wake up early and feel the buzz of Monument Circle at sunrise – it’s at the heart of the nation’s 14th largest city, after all. Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and especially when it comes with a side of cinnamon toast from Café Patachou. Then, stretch my legs with (another?!) ride on the Cultural Trial. Oh, be sure to catch one of the late-morning, weekday Coffee Classical or Pops concerts at the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra! A jolt of energy from Calvin Fletcher’s Coffee Company in Fletcher Place. Read and meditate at one of Indy’s numerous city parks – what a gem in the city’s crown of amenities. And then time for dinner and a sip. Rise and repeat.

Q. Do you have a favorite holiday memory or tradition? Which holiday events do you make it a point to attend every year?

A. One of my earliest holiday memories was the entire Pettry family – grandparents and all – driving an hour to Indianapolis for shopping at the old-school L.S. Ayres department store right in downtown Indy. I still think there’s something magic about downtown Indy during the holidays. Snap a selfie in front of Monument Circle’s Circle of Lights, take in a show (Yuletide Celebration at the ISO, Festival of Carols with the Symphonic Choir, or IRT’s A Christmas Carol), and I’m guaranteed to be in the holiday spirit.


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