Our Community Remembers Susan Hedges

A picture of Susan (center), with sisters Barbara (front) and Elizabeth (back) on one of her father’s work mules in New Middleton, Tennessee, ca. 1959

For many years, Susan Hedges served as the face and voice of SFEMS, greeting concert patrons and answering phone calls with a warmth and enthusiasm that drew many into our early music community. On Thursday, August 27, following complications from a stroke she suffered this past March, Susan passed away. Although she retired from SFEMS in 2007, she will be remembered fondly and her loss felt deeply by many in our community.

Please enjoy this series of recollections from several of her friends in our community.

David Daniel Bowes, violist:

DEAR Susan, I loved listening to her Southern modulation of speech. She would be nervous before church service then pull herself up and sing out! Gosh, I must have met her 25+ years ago when St. Marks started using early music players for their lovely services. Judith and Alan Nelson always sat so they could easily enjoy the small orchestra and choir. When I was asked to suggest players and music for in-between the liturgical setting , I tried to vary the literature….we did everything from Bach to Boyce Sinfonias to Mozart Divertimenti. I believe we even did a Faure Requiem that was very much appreciated. I enjoyed just hanging out with Susan before and after the services. She triumphed over cancer to live many more years. Felled by the effects of a stroke. I suddenly remember that she taught me what a “pan bath” was……in a somewhat humble household when she was growing up. I am really going to miss her.

Frances Feldon, recorder player:

I’m so saddened, Susan was integral to our community for such a long time, so capable, kind, generous and funny, with a big, beautiful voice.

Susan was an ESSENTIAL component to the smooth and successful administration of SFEMS, from before I arrived in the Bay Area in 1989 until she retired around the same time as Robert Jackson, the Executive Director of SFEMS for a good long time. Susan was Robert’s right hand woman: SFEMS could not have functioned without either of them.

Susan was very kind to me when I first arrived here, and helped me find my place in the early music community, starting with SFEMS. Until I could make a living teaching and playing, I supplemented my meager income by spending hours sitting at her dining room table with her, organizing the bulk mailings for the SFEMS newsletter, or helping with other admin tasks. She always made these and other tedious tasks a party with her positivity, good humor, hilarious stories, jokes and off color commentary. I delighted in her country music spoofs of early vocal repertoire, which were always one of the highlights of every feast night musicale at the Baroque Workshop at Dominican College when Anna Carol Dudley directed.

Susan you are greatly missed. RIP.

David Wilson, violinist:

For as long as I’ve lived in the Bay Area, 22 years now, I would see Susan at concerts; first as a volunteer for groups like Magnificat, and eventually as a member of the audience. She always seemed delighted to see us musicians and to exchange a few words. I’m sad that those days are now gone. She will be missed and remembered.

Victor Gavenda, conductor and harpsichordist:

A million years ago (maybe 1989?) one of the many fractional-time jobs I took as a music history grad student in Berkeley was to be House Manager of the SFEMS concert series.
At my first concert, Susan arrived to handle ticket sales—our first meeting. I asked her, “Who gets the Senior Discount?” and her unforgettable answer: “Oh honey, I just figure if they admit to being a senior in public, they get the discount.”
I’ve enjoyed many other such interchanges over the decades since, and I’m very sorry that there will be no more…

Alan Paul, SFEMS workshop participant:

Way back in the good ol’ days when the SFEMS Baroque Workshop was at Dominican College in San Rafael, Susan would spend one evening during the week singing Hank Williams tunes and other “hurtin’ songs,” accompanied by the likes of Phebe Craig on harpsichord and Michael Sand on violin, both playing in a perfect country-western idiom. It was always among the most memorably musical events of the week. Susan sang with such ease, style, and feeling. It’s hard to believe she’s left us.

Written by Lorena Zapata