August 24, 2013

Voice of Maine classical music bids adieu

Suzanne Nance begins and ends her last 'Morning Classical' program with tears of gratitude.

By Gillian Graham ggraham@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

PORTLAND — Suzanne Nance began and ended her last "Morning Classical" show in tears.

click image to enlarge

Suzanne Nance, center, in black, shares a moment with friends Kate Cox, at left, and Frank and Sharon Reilly, at right, after Nance signed off of her last broadcast as host of "Morning Classical" on MPBN Friday, August 23, 2013.

Gabe Souza / Staff Photographer

click image to enlarge

Suzanne Nance hosts her last broadcast as host of "Morning Classical" on MPBN on Friday, August 23, 2013.

Gabe Souza / Staff Photographer

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"It's overwhelming," she said Friday morning during a break in her popular classical music show on the Maine Public Broadcasting Network. "I have such gratitude and joy, but it is incredibly difficult to leave."

Nance, who earned a large and loyal following because of her engaging personality and ability to connect to listeners during her six years with the network, is leaving Maine to join the commercial classical radio station WFMT in Chicago on Oct. 1.

The move, she said, is bittersweet.

"Wow, that's a wrap," she said moments after saying her on-air goodbye to Maine, the final notes of Jay Ungar's "Ashokan Farewell" drifting through the studio. "It feels like the huge end of an odyssey. I feel so lucky to have had this window into such an amazing place."

Since 2007, Nance served as music director for MPBN and host of the three-hour music show. The network will search nationwide for her replacement as it develops plans for a dedicated classical music channel.

In the meantime, the show will air with other people filling in.

"Our goal, and my desire, is that MPBN will have a full-time classical music service," said Mark Vogelzang, president and CEO of MPBN.

Though Vogelzang said everyone at the network is sad to see Nance leave, they are happy to celebrate her "tremendous commitment and influence to artistic life in Maine."

"A lot of times in life, we don't get a chance to pause and say 'thank you' and celebrate something that means a lot to us," he said. "It's a wonderful moment because we can thank Suzanne for what she's done for MPBN and the state of Maine."

A soprano with an international singing career, Nance is widely considered a rising star in the classical music world because of her career in radio and her stage presence.

She first came to Maine as a college intern to sing at the Seal Bay Festival of American Chamber Music, but her fascination with the state dates back to her childhood in Philadelphia. As a young girl, she often asked her mother if they could visit Maine.

Since moving to Maine to work at MPBN, Nance said, she has had a chance to travel to all corners of the state, for work and to perform.

"Music in Maine is everywhere, and it's a celebration of the finer things in life," she said. "Maine has been good to me and I owe Maine deep gratitude."

During her final show, Nance mentioned gratitude frequently: for listeners, for the beauty of the state, for the tremendous creativity she said she sees all over Maine.

She also expressed gratitude for the feedback from her listeners, even if it was occasionally harsh and challenged her to hone her on-air skills.

"It helped me develop my sound," she said. "And I was able to discover the sound of Maine."

Nance was continually inspired by the Maine arts community, she said, including the younger people who are fans of classical music.

"I have seen a spike in interest in classical music among young people that I've never experienced anywhere else," she said. "It's amazing and inspiring. Classical music isn't dying, and Maine is a testament to that."

During her final show, Nance was visited in the studio by her friend and publicist Alice Korn-hauser, who said Nance was able to engage people of various backgrounds with her passion and vast knowledge of music.

"She has been a part of the arts community, not just as a cheerleader, but as a working artist," Kornhauser said. "Her heart is here."

Nance, whose fiance lives in Cape Elizabeth, said she will return to Maine frequently, including a visit in October for a performance at the Waterville Opera House.

Before she leaves for Chicago, Nance wants to answer each of the more than 1,000 emails and letters she has received from fans.

"I don't think I could totally leave," she said. "I have such deep roots here. That gives me the strength and confidence to leave and explore the possibilities."

Gillian Graham can be contacted at 791-6315 or at:

ggraham@pressherald.com

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