An Unlikely Story: Rebirth and New Beginnings
After 48 years of steadfast dedication to one unlikely vision, Susan Randazzo, a founding Groton Hill staff member, cellist, and former Executive Director has taken her leave from Groton Hill. On June 7th, 160 of Susan’s longtime friends, business associates, and colleagues gathered in Groton Hill’s Skyview Room to honor her legacy. The evening’s highlight – and a surprise for Susan – was a touching musical performance by her children: son Dan on trombone, daughter Leah on vocals, and son-in-law Jeff on piano. The song was Joni Mitchell’s “The Circle Game,” which Leah chose because “Joni Mitchell reminds me of my mom!” It was also a fitting tribute to Susan’s storied career with an organization that has come full circle at 38 years and counting.
Susan was there from the very beginning. In 1975, the orchestra was formed in Groton as a chamber group. The Music Center was born in 1985 in Groton as Indian Hill Arts. It was soon housed in Littleton’s Shattuck Street School, but circumstances changed in the 1990s and the organization quickly needed to find a new home. “Under then-Executive Director Evy Dueck’s leadership, along with Camilla Blackman and Bob Anderson, we bought and renovated 36 King Street in Littleton,” says Susan. “Camilla led that campaign, and it was the first time we really had a ‘street presence.’ I remember that we moved in on a Thursday afternoon, we had an Open House that weekend, and a thousand people showed up! After that, things grew rapidly.”
Additional staff were hired to manage and market the Music School and the expanding performance series – with Susan as Director of Performance – which now included jazz, chamber music, children’s concerts, and the professional Orchestra of Indian Hill (now Vista Philharmonic). “I kind of grew through the organization,” says Susan, “first teaching, then managing the orchestra, being Director of Performance, and then being named Executive Director in 2001.”
The recession in 2008-2009 was a big challenge for the organization, but Susan says that we came out of it a stronger organization: “Lisa Fiorentino was just hired as Director of Finance and she helped us right the financial ship. We had to let go of some staff, cancel a concert, reduce rehearsal time for the orchestra, and we weren’t able to give staff and faculty raises for a time – but we were honest with everyone. We moved forward and continued with the mission. It actually gave some of our donors more confidence in us, and shortly after, we received our first seven figure gift! Of course, the most defining moment for the organization was sitting in an office in a meeting in 2014 and having a grand vision articulated… and then understanding that the vision could become reality. That was a spine-tingling moment – and an articulation of what the founders saw as possible all those years ago.”
Susan speaks fondly about being inspired by countless people along the way: “One of the things I’m most grateful for is all the learning that happened for me. I was supported and helped by fellow staff members, by board leadership (Fred Reynolds, Priscilla Endicott, Ralph Brown), and my colleagues in the field. I have always felt that being a ‘servant leader’ was most helpful in my success, but it’s really OUR success! It was all of us! The founding of the organization was a group of people that I was part of: Harry Chalmiers, Erika Kraft, Camilla Blackman, Lou Dimola, Judy Munson, Mary Ann Brandt, and so many more. It’s always a group of people… a team! We’re in the relationship business and music is our currency – it’s the thing that pulls us together.”
Looking ahead to the future, Susan says, “I’m not disappearing! I’m going to keep playing in the Orchestra, I’ll be coming to concerts, and I’m not going to be shy about sharing my thoughts! You know, when we first formed the organization we were doing work in the schools, we were giving concerts, we were teaching children, we had ensembles – and community was always at the core and has remained so. We all should be really proud of the fact that the essential core mission and values of our organization have endured from the very beginning. I’m so excited to see what happens!”
She leaves us with a few words of wisdom and thanks: “We should just keep moving towards that north star of excellence in performances of all kinds, high quality education, giving back to the community, and sticking with our core values and our central mission. They say that people forget what you said but they will absolutely remember how you made them feel. I thank you for how you have made me feel. It has been the honor and privilege of a lifetime to know you all and to be a part of this extraordinary and unlikely story.”