May 8, 2011

Voicing passion for classical music

As a radio host and as a singer, Suzanne Nance's vibrancy and commitment attract audiences.

By Bob Keyes
Staff Writer

To succeed on the radio, Suzanne Nance learned to sparkle with her voice.

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Suzanne Nance prepares for her “Morning Classical Music” show, top, in a Maine Public Broadcasting Network studio in Portland on Tuesday.

Photos by Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer

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Suzanne Nance's morning radio shows end at noon, but she works the rest of the day on her programs and answers listeners emails, and often attends performances around Maine in the evening.

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"MORNING Classical Music" with Suzanne Nance is on the air from 9 a.m. to noon across the MPBN radio network: WMED Calais, 89.7; WMEA Portland, 90.1; WMEP Camden, 90.5; WMEH Bangor, 90.9; WMEW Waterville, 91.3; WMEM Presque Isle, 106.1; WMEF Fort Kent, 106.5.

To succeed in life, she learned to sparkle with her personality.

Nance, host of Maine Public Broadcasting Network's "Morning Classical Music" radio show, has a crisp on-air demeanor that reveals a friendly, silky countenance.

You can hear her smile, which she does often.

In her four years as MPBN's music director, Nance has used her alluring voice and confident presence to draw listeners and expand the station's classical music footprint. In doing so, she has used her position to elevate and demystify classical music statewide and has made herself a rising star in the classical music world.

She is an unapologetic advocate with untarnished credibility.

A soprano, Nance also maintains an active career as a performer. When she talks about Mozart or some other composer on the air, she knows what she is talking about. She sings him inside and out.

"She is fun, spicy and passionate, and she backs it up with her intellect," said Portland-based violinist Jennifer Elowitch, who also serves as artistic director of the Portland Chamber Music Festival. "You need all of that to pull off what she has done, and Suzanne's got it."

Nance, 33, breaks the mold of what we've come to expect of classical music on the airwaves. She plays all kinds of music, including contemporary music. She plays vocal music. She interviews artists in the studio, and encourages them to bring their instruments to perform over the air.

"She is not what you think of when you stereotype classical music," Elowitch said. "She is vibrant. She is female. She is beautiful. She's smart and also lots of fun."

Nance came to Portland from Philadelphia by way of Chicago. Before arriving in Maine four years ago, she balanced a career that required her to commute among three cities.

She had an apartment in Chicago, where she sang regularly, and traveled to Aspen, Colo., for a seasonal radio job. She also had a standing singing gig in Prague, which required frequent overseas travel.

It was a glamorous and exciting life, but Nance wanted one home.

"Radio for me was becoming more and more a part of my life," she said. "It was sort of like, 'I shouldn't ignore this part. I should go to it, because it's clearly a big part of what I can offer.' So I did."

She chose to do it in Maine. During her college years, Nance came to Maine as an intern for the Seal Bay Music Festival, and fell in love with the state. When the job at MPBN opened up, she applied.

This month, Nance moves her show from Bangor to MPBN's Portland studios on Marginal Way. She still will travel across the state and originate her show in Bangor and elsewhere, but Portland is her base. She just signed a lease to live in Portland's West End.

She credits Terry Gross, host of the popular radio show "Fresh Air" on WHYY in Philadelphia, for sparking her interest in broadcasting. Nance grew up in Philly and worked at WHYY. She observed Gross every day, and noted her dedication.

"She would take home probably 15 to 20 books every night and come back with 20 different books the next morning that she had digested," Nance recalled.

The lesson she learned was simple: If you are going to be the best in your field, you must fully commit to your subject.

Nance does that today. She makes room in her program for interviews, and she pays attention to the news that comes before her show. She always finds out in advance which poem Garrison Keillor is reading on "The Writer's Almanac," which immediately precedes her show at 9 a.m., so she can plan accordingly.

(Continued on page 2)

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Additional Photos

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Suzanne Nance shares her knowledge and enthusiasm about the music with listeners. She says, There are lots of lobster men and women listening to the show. There are house cleaners in Fort Kent.u200A I can visualize their faces.


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