Chautauqua Institution‘s performing and visual arts programming will enter a transition phase this fall. After 25 years of leadership, vice president and director of programming Marty Merkley will retire at the end of September
Deborah Sunya Moore, who has served as associate director of programming for nearly two years, will assume Merkley’s role and responsibilities on Oct. 1.
At 9:15 a.m. Thursday at the Chautauqua Women’s Club House, Moore will give a talk titled “Arts Programming at Chautauqua: Onward and Upward.”
Last year, Moore — a percussionist, K-12 arts educator and advocate for performing arts programs for youth and persons with disabilities — launched two theater-related programs for local, yearround youth. She plans to further expand the program.
Moore was instrumental in establishing a three-stage Young Playwrights Project for third-grade students at Chautauqua Lake and Jamestown’s Milton J. Fletcher elementary schools. Under the guidance of teaching artists from Florida Studio Theatre, who spent two days at both schools, each student wrote a short play.
During the last week of January, numerous volunteers associated with the off-season Chautauqua Play Readers group rehearsed and read the plays aloud to each third-grade class from both schools in Bellinger Hall. FST then selected nine plays for production. Chautauqua Theater Company actors performed these plays for the youngsters on June 22, shortly before the season began.
Moore’s second initiative is related to her affiliation with the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts as a national workshop leader. With Kennedy Center support, she designed the curriculum for two teachertraining workshops for pre-K through first grade. “Sing Me a Story!” explores vocal and instrumental music; “Play Me a Book!” integrates music and literature. Last fall, Moore introduced the two as a combined workshop for the Chautauqua Lake Central School District and Erie 2 Chautauqua-Cattaraugus BOCES.
For teachers in grades K-5, she has developed and taught a workshop on “Music and Poetry: A Powerful Connection” through the Kennedy Center. When students are included, Moore’s workshops become oneweek residencies. Demonstration teaching is also possible.
In addition, in partnership with Chautauqua BOCES and E2CCB, the Institution initiated a five-week drumming residency at the LoGuidice Educational Center that teaches basic drumming techniques and life skills. With her husband, CSO principal percussionist Brian Kushmaul, Moore has led special education students in drum circles at LoGuidice.
Moore has long been passionate about music and performing arts education.
“I have been taking piano since I was a young child,” she said.
Because she could be a member of band as a sixth grader, she took a music aptitude test. She said she got everything correct except for two answers. Based on the test results, however, she was told that she didn’t have the rhythm to be a percussionist.
“So I stuck with it,” Moore said. “I didn’t like being told I couldn’t do it.”
From then on, Moore said she walked through every door that was open. At Oberlin College, she double majored in performance education and percussion.
“I was very interested in how children learned and in all the arts, so I asked for an interdisciplinary major,” she said. “Oberlin said yes. I created a major called ‘performance education in related arts’ — PERA. My curriculum included modern dance, theater, choreography, directing and music education.”
While co-teaching a music lab for young children with a professor, Moore said she discovered her love of teaching. They co-designed a class on music and movement for adults to explore how movement and dance affect education, and education affects movement.
During Moore’s first term studying for a master’s degree at the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, she said she won an audition for Tales & Scales, a group based in Evansville, Indiana, that commissions and performs “music tales” for children and families.
She withdrew from CCM in 1996 to join this group as its percussionist. Three years later, she also assumed the role of artistic director.
Moore performed at Chautauqua with Tales & Scale in 1996, where she met her husband.
In 2004, she left Tales & Scales for the Louisville Orchestra, where she was the director of education and community engagement until 2009.
Before moving to Mayville for her current post, she served as the arts education and community engagement specialist, and as associate professor of percussion, at the University of Trinidad and Tobago. While based in Trinidad, she earned an online Master of Education in curriculum and instruction for K-12 teachers.
During her first two years at the Institution, Moore was also instrumental in the CSO music director and Chautauqua Opera Company artistic and general director searches. Further, she was the producer for last summer’s inter-arts collaboration, Go West!
When Merkley retires, Moore will oversee all professional and pre-professional performing and visual arts presentations at Chautauqua, including all of the popular entertainment scheduled in the Amphitheater, Chautauqua Dance, Chautauqua Opera Company, Chautauqua School of Music (composed of instrumental, piano, and voice programs), Chautauqua Symphony Orchestra, Logan Chamber Music Series, the Visual Arts at Chautauqua Institution, and interarts collaborations.