Musique Sur La Mer music director blends artistry with advocacy
by Linda A. Rapka
After years of watching music programs in schools dwindle town to almost nothing in her neighborhood of Long Beach, Marcy A. Sudock set out to do something about it.
Partnering with a local neighborhood youth center in 2001, she founded the Musique Sur La Mer Orchestras, a nonprofit orchestra group serving every level of musical performance starting with musicians as young as 7 years old. In an effort to build up music programs in public schools, which often limit students to one or two electives, as a contingency to join MSLM students must also be enrolled in their school’s music program.
Sudock, a multi-faceted musician, conductor, and private music instructor, serves as artistic director and conductor of several various performing groups under the MSLM umbrella, which any given year ranges from 55 to up to 300 students. La Petite Musique Children’s Orchestra serves musicians ages 7-14, progressing to the MSLM Youth Symphony Orchestra, MSLM Chamber and Jazz Orchestra, MSLM Wind and String Ensembles, and the MSLM Chamber Ensembles.
Throughout the program’s first several years, as Sudock watched her students grow into talented artists, a worrisome question persisted: Once they graduated, where would they get their first professional gig? She decided to take it upon herself to find an answer, and gathered together the best musicians she knew and founded the professional Musique Sur La Mer Orchestra. Comprising members of AFM Locals 353 Long Beach, 47 Los Angeles, and 7 Orange County, the orchestra provides an avenue for students who graduate through the program to perform in a professional setting.
“It is important to let the kids see that yes, there is a life as a musician, yes you should join the union, yes you should be a contributing member of your community,” Sudock said. “And it’s working.”
Many MSLM alumni have earned attendance into some of the nation’s most prestigious universities including Yale, USC, UCLA, Pepperdine and Stanford, and conservatories such as Juilliard, Berklee, and the Eastman Schools of Music. “Easily 98% have gotten full scholarships to college,” Sudock said. “Many have become professional musicians in their own right. Others have started youth orchestras in other areas of the country, wanting to proliferate what they learned. Some are doctors and lawyers and other professionals, but still play music.”
Living up to its name, Musique Sur La Mer incorporates music from cultures around the globe in its repertoire and travels the world performing concerts that inspire and sustain by raising money for various charities. Sudock has conducted her students in such illustrious venues as Sydney’s Opera House, London’s Royal College of Music, Vienna’s Musikverien, and New Zealand’s Christchurch Cathedral in addition to numerous venues in the Long Beach area. Her primary aim with these orchestras is to empower musicians, create peace through the international language of music has worked hand in hand with strong ethics, responsibility, musicality, education, passion and commitment. The students volunteer for beach clean-ups in the Long Beach area once a month. Three years ago the program had grown so large it branched off to become its own 501(c)3 organization.
The Musique Sur La Mer Orchestra will perform the “For the Love of Our Oceans” concert Sunday, March 5 at the Long Beach Aquarium of the Pacific. The program features four world-premiere compositions by four of America’s greatest composers: Richard Danielpour, Kenneth Fuchs, Max Wolpert, and Edward Zeliff.
“We wrote to the four composers hoping that maybe one might agree,” Sudock said. “Within 20 minutes, all of them had emailed back. Each of them said they love our orchestra and conducting.”
To say this concert is a labor of love for Sudock is an overwhelming understatement: When funding for the concert was unexpectedly and tragically cut off after the benefactor’s sudden death, she and her husband Mark committed to funding the concert themselves by taking out money against their home.
“We made a commitment to the musicians,” she explained. “But we now it’s going to work. The goal and dream of all of this is that it is a program based on the sea. And the music is stunning.”
A portion of the proceeds after costs will go to the Aquarium for ocean cleanup.
Tickets and information on making a tax-deductible donation to the Musique Sur La Mer Orchestras can be found at mslmorchestra.com.