Susan Spelius Dunning ’83 Ties Experience in Music Program to her Own Non-Profit
Music, Music Alumni, University Center for the Arts | November 30, 2011
Like many artists Alumnus Susan Spelius Dunning ’83 has ventured into the non-profit world. As Artistic Director of the Sun Valley Artist Series, based in the resort town of Sun Valley, Idaho, she is responsible for bringing classical music to Sun Valley in the “off season.”
“After I moved to Sun Valley from Los Angeles in 2003, I saw a lack of music year round,” says Dunning. “I had a real desire to bring music to the community, so with my partner I founded the Sun Valley Artist Series and have had a tremendous response from the community. The programs just keep expanding.”
After completing her piano performance master’s at CSU and doctoral degree at the University of Colorado, Susan went on to College of the Canyons in Los Angeles to teach piano performance, music theory and music appreciation.
Susan says it is her teaching experience at CSU and at College of the Canyons that led to the creation of the Sun Valley Artist Series.
“Starting the series wasn’t a challenge, it’s what I’ve done my whole life. This type of thing seems integrated for a lot of musicians,” says Susan. “It was an extension of everything I have been doing in music education.”
In October 2011, Coordinator of Keyboard Studies Dr. Janet Landreth performed pieces by Franz Liszt and taught a Master Class as part of the Sun Valley Artist Series. For Susan, it was a reunion with her mentor.
“I appreciated how small the program at CSU was, and it was the people, the individual instructors that made my experience there so special,” says Susan. “Janet and I reconnected after a number of years, and after we connected, I remembered how a lot of her students are her best friends. That was really profound for me.”
Aside from those who Susan says “took me under their wing;” department chair Dr. James McCray, emeritus professor Dr. William Runyan and the late Wil Schwartz, Susan credits another person at CSU as someone who served as an inspiration.
“As a student in the piano performance master’s program, I was often in the music building on the Oval till 2:00 a.m., and I quickly became friends with the janitor. It was interesting to see life from the other side, and I remember feeling appreciation of his efforts. Here I am studying this great art, and one of my great friends in that endeavor was the janitor,” says Susan.
In its third season, the Sun Valley Artist Series will feature international guest artists, master classes and a suicide prevention benefit concert raising funds for the National Alliance on Mental Illness, Wood River Valley Crisis Hotline and The Speedy Foundation. Characteristic of a community organization, tickets are free for music students and community members who cannot afford to see a performance.
“The impacts we have seen from letting people hear live classical music in an intimate setting has been wonderful. It’s the heart beat of my art. There is still something very organic and amazing about experiencing classical music live,” says Susan.
While her time as an instructor at College of the Canyons served as a stepping stone to Susan’s career in the non-profit world, she credits the master’s program in the Department of Music, Theatre and Dance at CSU to exposing her to a collaborative environment.
“I am really proud to have gone through that master’s program,” says Susan. “Teaching in that department taught me lessons that served me all the way through other teaching positions. I learned how to get along with people and the powers that be, having to do things that aren’t my way. I feel that my experience in the department helped me become a team player.”
For more information visit the Sun Valley Artist Series website