Get to Know Susan Bjerre

“I’m basically a Bach groupie. My introductions were playing his two-part inventions as a child and singing Swingle Singer arrangements of a cantata in junior high school. One of the most moving experiences of my life was singing the B Minor Mass at Princeton, where I was privileged to take a course on Bach with Arthur Mendel, editor of the Bach Reader. I’m no soloist, but I love choral singing, and it was wonderful later to sing the B Minor Mass and St. John and St. Matthew Passions in the Los Angeles Bach Festival.

After graduating with a degree in religion (I’ve been known to say that Bach’s music is the best evidence for the existence of God.), I worked briefly for Colbert Artists Management in NY—my only “professional” music job. I moved back to Kansas City, where I worked in a family publishing business and then as Public Information Officer for the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art.

I met my husband, Mads, on vacation in Greece. He grew up in Denmark but moved to Los Angeles as a young man, so if we were to get married, I would move to LA. I got my MBA at UCLA, worked in real estate management, and then joined Mads in his accounting firm. In 2002 I became a docent at the LA County Museum of Art. Particularly during my year as Chair of the Docent Council, it was like having two full-time jobs, but I loved every minute.

Mads and I had been coming to Carmel since about 1990, but it was several more years before I learned there was a Bach Festival here. Wow—my favorite music in my favorite place. Almost too good to be true… We started planning our trips to Carmel around the Festival, and even though we missed a few years, we’ve attended at least a dozen years. We progressed from being here for one week to staying for two so I could attend more concerts while still enjoying hikes and beach walks while we were here.

The Bach Festival was a significant factor in deciding to buy a vacation home here, and I was determined to find a way to get involved. I called the office and found out about the volunteer tea and made a point of being there. I signed up for as much as I could: ushering, transportation, and particularly Musician Hospitality, which was the most fun and interesting.

Being around the musicians when they’re off stage enriches the concert, and human, experience. The volunteers do not just feel like part of the Festival, they are part of the Festival. We see the musicians’ personalities, hear about their accomplishments—and frustrations, and simply answer questions. Now that we live here full time, I can be even more involved as a volunteer. The friends I’ve made through the Festival have been a lifesaver for me during Shelter in Place. What a wonderful, smart, fun group of people, united in their support of this Festival.”

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