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Bringing About a World That Ought To Be | Elizabeth Chan ’98


Please tell me about the work you do now.

I’m the CEO and Principal of Merry Bright Music, an exclusively holiday entertainment company. Throughout the years, I’ve also been known as “The Queen of Christmas” because of my commitment to producing and distributing holiday music and content for more than a decade.


What are some of your favorite memories from Friends?

I remember participating in a talent show at Friends in Grade 7—I was so nervous, but it was the first time I participated in a talent show, and I sang “Stay” by Lisa Loeb. People who didn’t know I had a musical heart came up to me and said I was so good! It was the first time my classmates were introduced to my love of music, and I remember at that moment—like it was yesterday—feeling accepted for who I truly was. Music has a way to help show the inner you in a way that words cannot do alone. That moment helped me recognize how much I loved music and being able to share my voice, and singing was a huge part of me as a person. I also remember my family being part of Chinese New Year events with the School, which was really special to bring that element of my culture to the entire school.


I think the one most important thing I took with me during my time at Friends was this Quaker belief that everyday is a holy day. I definitely approach that philosophy now in my daily life and throughout the music business. I’m known for always reminding people to live everyday as if it was a special holiday like Christmas. We don’t have to wait for Christmas, or any holiday for that matter, to be kind and share love with those around us. We don’t have to wait for a single day to believe in great things around the corner.

Are there any teachers/staff that you remember fondly?

I enjoyed music with Bob Rosen and music class and learning the “Carol of the Bells” in chorus. I still know all the harmony parts. I also really appreciate learning how to type with Mr. Byrne—the typing test was such a big deal at the time! It was so old school, to type with a piece of paper over your hands and be threatened with not being able to graduate from Middle School seemed so serious and scary! Despite the trauma of potential failure, typing is still a skill I have that people remark upon today. Someone once said to me that I type faster than any human! I also still remember how to conjugate Latin verbs because of Mr. Schwartz, which I couldn’t anticipate would come in handy for Christmas music and composition. These are small things, but when you live a life and meet so many people and look back on the things that stick, you have great appreciation for those moments when the small things have become great things.

I wish I would have stayed longer at Friends. Of course, sometimes when you are a kid, these decisions aren’t yours to make. I’m also very grateful to Pam Wood, who reminded me that no matter how far I was from Friends, I’d always be part of Friends.

In what ways have Quaker values and your experience at Friends influenced the work you do today?

Although I’m not Quaker by upbringing, I’m probably more Quaker than I realize. My time at Friends helped become the foundation of figuring out who I was as a person. I often think about the gift we all had as students to sit in Meeting—and have a time for self reflection on a daily basis. That’s a gift that isn’t often given to us as we leave Friends. The Quaker value of community service is something I learned while at Friends and have definitely taken with me throughout life. It’s important to give back to the community you are a part of, and as I moved into different communities in my life, I have always upheld community service and treating others with empathy and compassion everywhere I have been. This is something I also uphold for my kids as well.


How do you understand the work you do now as “bringing about a world that ought to be”?

Although I’ve been known as the “Queen of Christmas” in the music business, mostly because of all the Billboard Christmas singles I’ve put out in the last 12 years, I found myself in a position to free the title for the entire world. I defend the title from being a trademark held by a single person in perpetuity. Looking at it now in this interview and this context, my time at Friends most likely influenced my understanding that we are all equal on earth. That no one person is greater or bigger than anyone, especially not at Christmas. Christmas is for everyone. The grandmother or mother who makes Christmas special for everyone is just as worthy of the title as I am who writes and creates only Christmas music as is anyone else on earth. I hope that everything that I endeavor to do, personally or professionally, can be an example of how to treat people more compassionately and that more people will fight for the rights and happiness of others.


What are your hopes, dreams and plans for your work in the future?

I am very lucky to be doing what I love, and I just hope to be happy and healthy enough to continue creating the art and music that I love so much. That’s just such a special thing that I never take for granted everyday. I hope as a mother, I’m able to help guide my own children to find what it is that makes them happy and to help them find their best and true selves. I’m also very committed to opening doors for women and people of color in the music business: to provide avenues of equity in places where there is a lot more work to be done. It’s more than just hiring for diversity, it’s about championing, respecting and being a mentor and support system for a person who doesn’t look or love like you—and treating their career as a living, growing thing. I try to do this year round with my company and my team. Christmas and the holiday season are great equalizers and perfect platforms to keep true to this commitment. We all want better things and wish for miracles for each other during the holiday season, but I argue that we should do this everyday.


Would you be willing to be contacted by fellow alumni who wanted to learn more and network?

I’m so happy to connect with fellow alumni and students!

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