Celebrating 60 Years Of Music At Morgan Park

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The Morgan Park Music Festival built a float for the bicentennial parade in 1976.

This season marks the 60th year of the Morgan Park Summer Music Festival, and organizers plan on starting the season in a big way. The weekly Sunday night concerts are typically held in July and August, though this year, the festivities are starting a bit early, and are also starting strong, with multiple events and concerts planned within the first week.

“We have a great lineup this year and are doing things a little differently in honor of the 60th anniversary of the festival,” said Congressman Tom Suozzi, chairman of the Morgan Park Summer Music Festival.

To start, a special exhibit will open on Friday, June 28, at the North Shore Historical Museum, at 7 p.m. On Sunday, June 30, the first concert of the season will take place titled Fun Opera in the Park, with Claudio Mattioli and Massimiliano Barbolini. On Thursday, July 4, Richie Cannata and the Lords of 52nd Street will take the stage prior to the fireworks. Then, days later, Beatles tribute band Strawberry Fields will perform on Sunday, July 7.

“When we heard the City of Glen Cove was not going to be able to fund the fireworks and Fourth of July concert this year, we stepped in to help out,” said Suozzi. “The city has always been a big help to us, maintaining the park and providing security during the concerts.”

The free weekly concerts have been a beloved tradition in this city, providing the public with quality music in a beautiful setting. For Suozzi, the concerts have a more personal meaning, as it was his parents who made them happen. In 1959, his father, Joseph A. Suozzi, was mayor of Glen Cove and reached out to Laura Parsons Pratt to see if free concerts could be held in the park. One concert was held that first summer, with the gazebo used as the stage, and it expanded over the years to include performances every week.

Joseph’s wife, Marguerite (Marge) Suozzi, was involved from day one and eventually took over as chair of the festival, a position she held until retiring and passing the baton on to her son Tom in 2014—a decision which was made by the unanimous approval of the members of the executive committee. During her tenure as chair, she and a team of volunteers raised money for the new stage, which was erected in the 1990s, when Tom Suozzi was mayor.

“It’s a great honor for me to continue my mother’s legacy,” said Suozzi. “I remember, during my whole childhood, the telephone was constantly ringing during the spring and summer while she was arranging the concerts.”

The festival was started in an era without cell phones and email, so the planning took a lot more legwork.

“The fact that it’s continued for all these years is remarkable,” said Suozzi. “So many people are involved in the mailings, the concert selections, greeting people at the concerts and they’re all volunteers.”

Suozzi said his parents always stressed how big of a deal it is that no taxpayer money is used for the concerts— they are all funded through private donations. This year the festival’s title sponsor is Garvies Point and the total amount of money raised for the 2019 season is $100,000. A portion of that was from Edna Shotwell, who donated $10,000 in her will. Another important aspect is the quality of the performers.

“My mother’s big mission was to make entertainment available to all residents, some of whom maybe could not afford to see Broadway shows or go to the symphony,” said Suozzi.
This year, the Long Island Orchestra will perform on July 14 and the musical Mame will be performed by Plaza Productions on Sunday, Aug. 11.

“We’re trying to keep the level of sophistication that we’ve had historically,” said Suozzi. “But we also try to make it as diverse as possible.”

Another important part of its mission is to promote talented young musicians. For 45 years, the festival sponsored the Young Performers Competition, providing students with a professional auditioning experience, monetary awards and an opportunity to perform. This year, in lieu of the competition, the festival collaborated with the Nassau Music Educator’s Association to provide a scholarship to a student who plans to studying music.

“There are so many factors that go into putting this festival on and we have an awesome team of people who volunteer their time,” said Suozzi. “It’s such a wonderful thing for the community.”

For the complete season lineup, visit www.morganparkmusic.org.

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