By John Turner
It seems as though Susan Mark and the Skaneateles Festival are a match made in heaven.
Susan is in her 11th year as executive director of the annual month-long chamber music celebration, which on August 11 will kick off its 30th year.
During an interview last week from the SkanFest office in First Presbyterian Church, Susan said that her position with the festival was a natural extension of her college major.
“I was a technical theatre major at SUNY Brockport,” she explained. After graduating college, she was stage manager at various companies including the Eastman School of Music at the University of Rochester and at the Bronx Opera Company in New York City before relocating to the Syracuse Opera.
“I was there (at Syracuse Opera) for a couple of years, and then I learned that the festival was looking for an executive director. I wasn’t sure I wanted the position, but it’s like it was meant to be,” she said.
The festival’s search committee selected her for the position, and Susan said the rest of the SkanFest staff immediately embraced her as one of their own.
“I remember I went to a symphony, and David and Louise (Robinson, the festival’s former artistic directors) were there. And David just put his arm around me and paraded me around introducing me to everybody.
“I was really touched by that,” she added.
David and Louise, along with local resident and cellist Lindsay Groves, created the festival in 1980. That first year, SkanFest consisted of two weeks of intimate concerts at the Skaneateles Library Hall.
Through the years, thanks to the festival staff’s continued hard work and dedication, SkanFest has grown into a month-long concert series garnering international acclaim, having been recognized by the New York Times and major magazines like “Chamber Music America” and Bon Appetit.”
In 2005, Susan said, current artistic directors David Ying and Elinor Freer took the reins. And tragically, in July 2006 David Robinson passed away. “I know he is still missed by everybody involved with (SkanFest),” Susan said.
Interestingly, she continued, David Ying and Elinor Freer have “breathed new life into the festival.” The married couple, who are part of the Eastman music faculty, are younger than the previous artistic directors.
“They know a lot of younger musicians, so I think the average age of the musicians that play at the festival has dropped some.”
Of the more than 100 festival concerts Susan has seen in her decade as executive director, one concert still sticks out in her mind.
“I think it was my first season as director, and the Miro Quartet played. … And it was the first time – in fact, I think the only time – that the audience demanded an encore,” she recalled.
“They just refused to leave without hearing more.”
Each week of the annual festival is divided into “themes,” and Susan said she is excited about this year’s subjects.
Week One’s theme is “Time for Three,” and will feature several musical trios including a performance by Tf3, a world-renowned string trio that combines elements of classical, jazz, country-western, and even gypsy music.
“These guys are really unique. I think everyone’s going to love them,” Susan said.
And Week Four, “Hilary and Friends,” will mark the return of festival favorite and violin superstar Hilary Hahn, who will perform with various guests.
“People have always responded so well to Hillary. We’re glad to have her back after five years,” Susan said.
To learn more about the 2010 Skaneateles Festival, call 685-7418 or visit www.skanfest.org
Read other Up Close & Personal Stories from this Series.
- 6/10/2013 • Theater Weekend Held at Adirondack Great Camp
- 6/09/2013 • Skaneateles Hosts Antique and Classic Boat Show
- 6/08/2013 • Baltimore Woods Announces Programs for June 2013
- 6/07/2013 • Imagine Presents ‘Saturation of Color’
- 6/06/2013 • 2nd Annual CNY World Wide Knit in Public Day (WWKIP) is June 15th, 2013