The Bouquet Goes To: Susanne Park

by Ron Samuels 

Dayenu is a Hebrew word that translates as “it would have been enough.” It is spoken as an acknowledgment and remembrance of divine gifts. There are many such gifts, but a single one elicits the response, dayenu; in other words, that gift, alone, would have been enough. 

Susanne Park is a consummate violinist and musician. 

Susanne is a trusted and valued colleague. 

She recently distinguished herself (along with Irene Cheng, Ellen Chen and Chris Wu) as one of the soloists in Piazzolla’s The Four Seasons of Buenos Aires.

She was a member of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra Committee, along with six other dedicated colleagues (Micah Howard, Neal Berntsen, Jeremy Black, Jeremy Branson, James Nova and Paul Silver), during the tumultuous start to the 2016-17 season, when we made the agonizing but imperative decision to go on strike. Her value to that committee, and the value of all who served, was inestimable. 

She continues to help shepherd the PSO’s visibility in and relationship with the greater Pittsburgh community, is active with the Save Our Symphony organization, launched our Musicians’ Facebook page, and works tirelessly and unselfishly to promote our mission on social media. 

Who among us could have predicted what befell the PSO and the world last March? When the coronavirus pandemic abruptly shuttered the doors of Heinz Hall, Susanne’s leadership role entered into unchartered waters. During the ensuing months, though, she shifted into a higher gear. I have no idea where she found enough hours in the day to meet in committee, with counsel, with the orchestra, with management and with board trustees; to read and respond to a constant deluge of emails; to attend webinars and digest articles on the science of aerosols; to decipher the maze of electronic media agreement language; and to steer and guide us with laser steadfastness. But, she did.

The PSO family, far and wide, shares more words of praise and appreciation: 

Jon Walton (Board Trustee) 

Susanne exhibits the ideal characteristics of a leader: trustworthy and loyal; calm during a crisis; fearless and fair-minded about representing her colleagues; reasonable and thoughtful; always well-prepared, articulate and sincere; and an absolute pleasure to be around. Carol and I feel blessed to have formed a personal friendship with Susanne over the years. 

Doug Stirling (Board Trustee) 

Susanne was invaluable through her tireless commitment to bring the heart, soul and passion of the orchestra to every Board meeting. She possesses the unique ability to articulate the PSO’s mission in both a warm and heartfelt demeanor. She earned the deepest respect from all of the Trustees, demonstrating that her role was not just as a musician; rather, she made a deeper commitment as an ambassador to maintaining world-class music in Pittsburgh. 

Melia Tourangeau (President and CEO) 

I have always appreciated Susanne’s direct and honest communication style, her integrity, great sense of humor, compassion towards others and her passion for the institution. She is a fierce advocate for the musicians of the PSO and for the organization as a whole, and it has been a pleasure to work with her these past five years. 

Mary Persin (Vice President of Artistic Administration) 

When I think of Susanne, the words fierce, dynamic, passionate, fair and deeply committed all come to mind. Throughout her tenure as leader of the OC, she firmly, yet calmly steered the ship, always open and approachable, yet with a clear direction and unwavering integrity. I remember well her many impassioned Board reports, always delivered with incredible sincerity, yet packing a punch. My respect, esteem and gratitude for Susanne and all that she has done and continues to do are enormous. 

Tabitha Pfleger (Vice President of Orchestra Operations) 

Susanne became Chair of the OC, as I entered my first full season in my current role. From my very first one-on-one meeting, I could tell that she was an incredibly genuine person with strong convictions and a drive to do the right thing. While she took her committee work and role very seriously, she did so with a dry sense of humor, which is one of my favorite things about her. She really is a treasure to the organization, and I am thankful for the opportunity to work with her. 

Paul Silver (Viola <Retired>)

As a recent member of the Orchestra Committee, I had the pleasure and privilege of working with Susanne. During my nearly 40 years in the PSO, our musicians have been blessed by strong leadership, and Susanne is no exception. As our Orchestra Committee Chair, she combined traits that are not always mutually compatible. Susanne is fiercely protective of the musicians while remaining flexible in working out problems. She is confident but always invites honest debate. While treating serious matters with the gravity they deserve, she is able to maintain a wonderful and piercing sense of humor. 

Susanne is proud of her orchestra and enthusiastic about the many ways it interacts with our community. She manages to do all of this while also being a great musical colleague and thoughtful friend. I know my words seem to describe a Superperson, but that’s Susanne! 

Jenny Steele (Flute) 

Susanne has been a guiding light for our entire organization through some very tough
times. Most recently, I have been inspired by her vision and commitment to excellence in her position as Orchestra Committee Chair, especially while navigating the rough waters of the pandemic. 

Rhian Kenny (Flute and Piccolo) 

Susanne is a wonderful musician with a fantastic, wry sense of humor. She is able to work with anyone and put everyone at ease. From the strike through the pandemic, I am grateful for her leadership, presence and friendship. She is an absolute treasure! 

Chris Wu (Violin) 

Susanne Park has been, and continues to be, a great gift of leadership to the PSO. In addition to being a wonderful violinist, her Chairmanship of the Orchestra Committee was visionary and filled with humility, accountability, integrity and positivity. She led by example, and her work ethic inspired all those around her. I am blessed to call her my colleague and friend. 

Neal Berntsen (Trumpet) 

In 2016, as a result of our decision to strike, we developed a strong unity within our ranks and meaningful relationships with the public we serve. We had very strong leadership from then PSOC Chair, Micah Howard. When we returned to work, it became clear that Micah needed a much-deserved break. The remaining committee and orchestra were very concerned that Micah’s departure would cause an erosion of that unity. At that critical point, Susanne stepped forward. With her unique leadership style of understated yet dynamic, relentless devotion, we have maintained that unity, and we have garnered increased support from our community, and more cooperative relations with our board, administration and staff. We have long had remarkable leadership within our ranks. We all are fortunate that Susanne was willing to take her place in that lineage and lead us through the most difficult of times. She is ONE OF A KIND! 

Micah Howard (Bass) 

Susanne is not only a wonderful colleague and first-rate musician, she is one of the finest committee members I have ever had the privilege of serving with. Susanne always put the orchestra first. When things got tense, she kept her composure and made her points directly yet diplomatically. She was one of the best, if not the best, OC Chairs I have known. She led with strength and thoughtfulness, listening to her colleagues with an open mind. And, she was never afraid admitting she was wrong. I certainly learned a lot from her. First and foremost, I am happy to call her my friend. 

Manfred Honeck (Music Director) 

Susanne was a great representative of the Orchestra Committee. From the very beginning, I had great confidence in her. Why? She has an enormous gift of being able to listen to the people in the room and understand the situation. Even though she was very determined in her performance and powerfully expressed her own opinion and that of the orchestra, she always did so with great respect and fairness. I appreciated that she was always looking for the best possible solution. She thus gained not only my trust, but everybody’s trust. 

When I think of Susanne, I must also mention her wonderful sense of humor, which she demonstrated on countless occasions. I will never forget when I received a birthday greeting from her. I first saw an empty screen. I thought that something had gone wrong. But then gradually a head with a moustache appeared on the picture with an unbelievably sly look. It was her sense of humor that made me laugh a lot. 

Susanne has contributed greatly to the orchestra’s well-being. I am confident that she will continue to serve the orchestra faithfully as a colleague. I thank her from the bottom of my heart for the outstanding and meaningful work she has done, and all that she has contributed through her leadership, especially now, during this very difficult period. 

John Moore (Bass/Susanne’s husband) 

Susanne has so many great skills that shaped her leadership as OC Chair. She worked long hours (really long hours!) in that role. She is at her best when facing challenges, as she doesn’t give in easily. She is totally at ease talking to and forming relationships with our audience and donors. She inspires and amazes me every day. 

Susanne’s crazy sense of humor is one of the best things about being married to her. She cracks me up. She also loves great food, and I’m always excited when she likes my cooking. Everything she makes, though, is a masterpiece. She is my love and my angel. 

Oh, and her smile. 

Wow, Susanne, sounds like the bouquet is from John!  Please know, though, it is from all of us. Thank you. 

2 thoughts on “The Bouquet Goes To: Susanne Park

  1. Therese Park

    My bouquet goes to Susanne Park
    As her mother, I believe that her birth year, the historical year Astronaut Neal Armstrong landed on the Moon in Apollo 11 (on July 20, 1969) has much to do with Susanne’s courage, sense of fairness and common well fair. At age three, Susanne noticed my English-pronunciations with Asian accent and diligently corrected me, even when I was on the phone. At age four, whenever boys on our block got into fight, most of them older than herself, she walked up to them and said, “Boys, stop fighting!” and they did. When she was in kindergarten, she could read like a six-grader but she was frustrated with her desk-partner who couldn’t read or write, alwaystrying to copy “Susanne Park” on his own assignment paper. I told her; “Not every child at your age can read and write like you. Why not help him?” At my first teacher-parent conference, the teacher complimented Susanne, saying. “At beginning Susanne couldn’t tolerated her desk-partner, who kept copying her name on his assignment paper and didn’t even know what he has done. But recently she’s helping him to read and to write, and he’s improving.” I’m a lucky mom in my old age.

  2. Anna Loney

    Wow. I loved reading everything that people had to say about Susanne, especially those closest to her. And though I haven’t even spoken with Susanne since having a beer together some years ago at the Sharp Edge – (does that joint even exist anymore? Just imagine, having a beer with a friend in a bar? . . . ) you should know just how diligently she fought for Pittsburgh citizenry, and to help the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh retain ALL its branches, in a time when some were threatened with closure. The story played out as part fairy tale and part peasant uprising – but the end game was that justice willed out. It was good. So, keep visiting your local library, (I’d bet Susanne does) and valuing this clearly treasured colleague. She is worthy.

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