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Q&A with Sue Haug, a Driving Force Behind the Penn’s Woods Music Festival

by on June 12, 2018 5:00 AM

The festival began in 1986 but ended in 2003 before being re-started in its current format at Penn State in 2008. The festival was begun to provide something the community did not have – a professional classical music fest in the summer, says Sue Haug, professor or music and piano in the College of Arts and Architecture who has been a driving force behind the festival.

This year’s edition of the festival begins with Music in the Gardens at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday at the Arboretum. The event was rescheduled from Wednesday because of rain in the forecast.

T&G: How did the festival get started? 

Haug: In launching Music at Penn’s Woods in 1986, School of Music Director Lyle Merriman expressed hope that the festival would become a centerpiece of central Pennsylvania’s summer art offerings. Formal concerts were held initially in Schwab Auditorium, then Eisenhower Auditorium, and most recently at Esber Recital Hall. Initially called Music at Penn’s Woods, the name was later changed to the Penn’s Woods Music Festival as we expanded to include many outreach events in non-traditional venues.

T&G: How were you involved in re-starting it?

Haug: Shortly after I arrived as the new director of the Penn State’s School of Music in 2005, faculty and community members came to me to talk about Music at Penn’s Woods. People were disappointed that it had ended in 2003 and hoped there was a way to bring the festival back. I consulted with Dean Barbara Korner about the possibilities of developing a community-university partnership to restart Penn’s Woods, as a town and gown festival. We sent out a preliminary letter of inquiry in 2007 to past donors and ticket buyers to see if there was interest in supporting a new version of Penn’s Woods, and within a few weeks, approximately $25,000 was pledged to re-start the festival. But equally important, many volunteers agreed to meet to create this new version of Penn’s Woods. Thus, the Penn’s Woods Music Festival was reborn, and thanks to the passion and generosity of music lovers, donors, and volunteers, Penn’s Woods has blossomed into an annual, self-sustaining, multi-week summer musical festival.

T&G: What do you have planned this year? 

Haug: The festival features four classical music concerts the last two weeks in June – two orchestra concerts and two chamber music concerts, plus many audience engagement and youth activities [that began in May and continue in June]. Since the School of Music is building a new recital hall, opening in August, this year’s concerts will be held in Eisenhower Auditorium.

We continue to offer a very popular non-ticketed event at the Penn State Arboretum, Music in the Gardens. In addition, the Penn’s Woods Advisory Council offers many free classical music events for children and adults in various venues throughout the region – libraries, coffee houses, museums, retirement communities, and bookstores – and an OLLI course. This year the Allegria Ensemble is taking the lead for many of these engagement events, which we call Penn’s Woods 4 Kids and Penn’s Woods 4 U, for adults.

T&G: Are there things this year that you are particularly excited about?

Haug: Maestro Edelstein [festival artistic director Gerardo Edelstein] has planned a wonderful festival full of great music and outstanding musicians. It’s the music that excites me.

For a festival schedule and more information, visit

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