University of Delaware

Master Players expands

Acclaimed concert series forms advisory council to guide growth


9:27 a.m., March 25, 2014--The University of Delaware Master Players Concert Series, which is in its 10th annual season of public performances, has formed an advisory council to guide the regional concert presenter as it continues to grow.

“We are looking to expand by offering more world-class concerts and special educational programs to the communities of the Mid-Atlantic region,” said Xiang Gao, who is the founding artistic director for Master Players and Trustees Distinguished Professor of Music at UD, as well as one of the world’s top concert violinists from China.

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“Our advisory council is being established to contribute to the vision of our beloved series. The inspiring community leaders serving on the council all have a passion for music and for our community.”

The nonprofit Master Players, which Gao calls “big in reputation,” has become a flagship concert organization of the region and the fastest-growing professional music presenter in Delaware. The state Division of the Arts has cited it as “the most creative concert presenting organization in the area.” Concerts in the series, often praised for being unconventional and creative, are on average 95 percent sold out.

“I am honored to have this opportunity to serve and help bring this outstanding musical series to a broader audience in our community,” said Marichu Valencia, co-chair of the council, who also established the Puglisi Challenge with her husband, Donald Puglisi, last year to continue their support for the music offerings and education at UD. 

“This is an outstanding opportunity to expand high-quality arts programming to the citizens of Delaware and the surrounding states,” said Richard Fischer, also co-chair of the council, who has volunteered with leadership roles for many arts organizations in the area and has supported the University’s music programs.

Starting with the 2014-15 season, Master Players plans to increase the number of performances to feature more leading artists and ensembles from around the world. The series will also promote LGBT and minority performing artists and present more genres, including jazz, vocal, folk music, dance, musical theatre and opera productions.

During the current season, Master Players has already begun expanding, adding school programs such as the Delaware Honors Orchestra Festival for pre-college-age musicians and planning for a summer music festival, as well as summer concerts, afternoon concerts for retirees, community concerts for people with special needs and young-artist competitions and concerts. Master Players seeks to develop partnership programs to educate and engage community members at multiple venues throughout the region.

By being based at UD, Gao said, the series can provide performing arts experiences to University students, enriching and enlivening academic inquiry across all disciplines on campus.

“As we continue to expand and strengthen our longstanding and distinctive partnership with many departments at the University of Delaware, we are committed to creating uncommon learning opportunities for students and faculty both in and outside the classroom,” he said.

The newly established advisory council is co-chaired by:

  • Richard Fischer, the past president of The Growth Group, an international consulting practice focusing on strategic planning for public and private higher education and nonprofit institutions seeking innovative approaches to opportunities for renewal and growth. He previously held administrative positions for 33 years at the University of Delaware.
  • Marichu Valencia, recently retired from the U.S. Department of State, where she was a senior interior designer charged with interior decor and furnishings projects for U.S. ambassadors and consul general residences abroad. Her assignments brought her to various countries in Europe, Latin America, Asia and Africa.

Other members, appointed as of March 21, are:

  • Jerome K. Grossman, a partner in the Wilmington law firm Young Conaway Stargatt and Taylor who is a member of the Delaware State, District of Columbia and Missouri State bar associations and a licensed CPA. He is a member of the board of directors of the Milton and Hattie Kutz Foundation and the Harry Cohen Foundation and previously served as chair of the Delaware Symphony Association from 2010-12 and as its vice chair from 1999-2001.
  • Susan Grossman, recently retired from a career in the development of educational software with the Apple in Dallas, Texas, where she also served as a board member for the Dallas Opera and the Dallas Symphony Advisory Council.  She currently serves as president of the Delaware Art Museum Council and volunteers at the Mary Campbell Center.
  • Louis Hirsh joined the University of Delaware as a staff member in the University Honors Program in 1984 and retired in June 2012 as UD’s director of admissions. He now works part time as Louis Hirsh Consulting. Hirsh loves music (especially chamber music and opera), theatre and travel.
  • Margaret J. (Peg) Hirsh is dedicated to causes that help others, especially children, and has taught, mentored and tutored children in primary grades. She is involved in two international organizations, Dining for Women and Future Church, which support her goal to alleviate major stressors all over the world.  
  • Jack B. Jacobs is a justice appointed to the Delaware Supreme Court in 2003. He previously was a vice chancellor of the Delaware Court of Chancery after practicing law in Wilmington since 1968. He is also adjunct professor of law at the law schools of New York University, Columbia University, Vanderbilt University and the University of Pennsylvania.
  • Marion Jacobs coordinates the Stock Market Game, a national program offered to Delaware students in grades 4-12 by UD’s Center for Economic Education and Entrepreneurship. She also teaches “Civics and Economics for Elementary Teachers,” an undergraduate course jointly sponsored by the center and the School of Public Policy and Administration.
  • Michael Luck is a Certified Financial Planner and vice president with RBC Wealth Management in Wilmington. He has served for the past eight years as a member of the board of directors at Mid-Atlantic Ballet, finishing his term as board president in August 2013. He has two children enrolled as undergraduates at UD.
  • Mark Manniso, a UD graduate, is president and chief creative officer of Forte USA, an integrated marketing agency in Newark, Del., whose global clients include the Walt Disney Co., Procter & Gamble, Johnson & Johnson, M&M Mars, Bank of America, Discover Bank and NASCAR.
  • Marie Marx recently retired as a registered nurse and has been a longtime board member of the Boys and Girls Clubs of Delaware, where she would like to see music become a more important part of the program. She is an associate member of the Junior Board of Christiana Care and a member of the American Society of Botanical Artists and enjoys creating original art works.
  • Stuart Sharkey was a member of the UD administration and faculty for 41 years, serving as director of the Office of Housing and Residence Life for 12 years and in 1980 was appointed vice president for student life, a position he held for 14 years. He was a strong supporter of and advocate for the Department of Music and has served on the board of the Delaware Symphony.
  • Steven Waidley, a UD graduate whose passion for music began many years ago when his parents introduced him to the music of Johann Sebastian Bach, works as an anti-money-laundering investigations officer with HSBC Bank. He has served with many community organizations, including as a past board member for the Newark Symphony Orchestra. 

All the council members strive to help preserve and cherish music, the universal language of the planet, Gao said, adding: “Master Players staff and audiences deeply appreciate their leadership in advancing culture in our community, making it an even better place to live, work and raise families.” 

Complete biographies and photos are available at the Master Players website.

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