CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. — Retirement for Andrew Sussman is not an end, but a beginning.
Sussman, 61, of Waynesboro, Pa., will retire from his position as executive director of the Cumberland Valley School of Music in Chambersburg. The last day of his 18-year career with the school is Friday, Aug. 31.
Sussman's path to becoming the executive director of the CVSM was a journey. Growing up, he always loved music and learning to play new instruments. After graduating from the University of the Arts in Philadelphia, he spent six years traveling abroad visiting more than 50 countries including South Africa, Denmark, Ireland, India and Pakistan.
His travel reinvigorated his passion for music and the arts. Upon returning to the United States, he worked for publishing companies and major music labels in New York and New Hampshire, including J&R Music World and Inner City Records.
In the early 1990s Sussman made a "serendipitous" move to the area just as the Cumberland Valley School of Music was developing.
His wealth of knowledge in music and business development paired with the organization's innovative vision for musical education proved to be a match made in musical heaven.
"It was complete good fortune," Sussman said.
In 1994, he was named the school's executive director.
In the nearly two decades that Sussman has spent with the CVSM, his impact has been measurable. It has grown from a small organization to become one of the most distinguished arts organizations in the area, boasting more 50 faculty members, and 600 students of all ages at seven locations in Chambersburg, Mercersburg and Waynesboro in Pennsylvania, and in Hagerstown. Over the years, the school has touched thousands of lives in the local community.
"As the community has changed and evolved, people have wanted different programs," he said. "It has been a challenge and a thrill meeting those needs. In our organization there's a great deal of flexibility to try new programs. Every year we had the chance to try something new and different."
Sussman has stayed true to this by bringing the school's motto "Where quality meets community in arts education" to life. He has helped to establish numerous musical programs, events, summer camps and concerts for students in the surrounding community. This includes the CVSM Community String Orchestra, the Neighborhood Chefs' Walk and the Festival of Music and Theatre.
He credits his staff for the organization's success.
"I have the best, most dedicated staff and volunteers in the world," Sussman said.
In addition, keeping the organization financially solvent has been one of his goals during his years. As a nonprofit, CVSM relies heavily on fundraising and support from area businesses, civic organizations and foundations. Sussman has helped to organize an annual, black-tie dinner dance held every February to raise revenue. This year's event was called "An Evening in Paris: A Celebration of the Cuisine and Wines of France." It featured champagne, live music for dancing and French cuisines prepared by Chef Pat Young.
These events help to fund financial aid and merit-based scholarships for at-risk children and those in financial need who are unable to pay tuition. Throughout his career, Sussman has placed a huge emphasis on these aid programs so every child, regardless of their background, is able to experience music.
At the heart of his success is an ability to bring together people from all walks of life across all musical genres. Sussman takes pride in having created events such as the Celebrations of African American Gospel Music in conjunction with different camps geared toward people of all races and ethnicities.
"Music and the arts are important. It will enrich their life if they have the opportunity," Sussman said.
A musical composer, Sussman has also spent the years creating music for singers such as Rene Marie, Gwen Howard and the Washington, D.C. Cabaret Network. He has contributed to musicals that have been performed in New York City and locally. He plays mostly jazz piano, cello and the harmonica and recently took up the saxophone when he joined the CVSM New Horizons Band, a band of skilled musicians aged 50 and older.
As grand as his career has been, the biggest inspiration for Sussman is his students.
"My biggest thrill is watching the light in the students' eyes as they succeed," Sussman said. "Seeing the joy and excitement on their faces when they conquer a new instrument is what I feel best about. These are the best achievements."
His favorite event is the Performathon, a one-day, marathon music recital that features hundreds of students of all ages and abilities.
"Seeing the kids, young and old, get on stage and play instruments or sing all for the joy of music is inspirational," he said.
Paula Hepfer will replace Sussman as executive director of CVSM. She will continue Sussman's legacy and vigor for sharing music and the arts.
Sussman said he hopes to spend more time writing music and working on music composition. He is open to any adventures life may have in store for him.
"I'm still trying to figure out what I want to do when I grow up," he said.
For Sussman, his time at CVSM has been like a great musicial composition from beginning to end.
"This has been a fantastic opportunity to share my passion. It has been a great privilege. I am looking forward to what's next," he said.