SPAC 2021: Dawn of the New; Dawn of Renew

Annual Meeting Celebrates Reopening; Welcomes New Board Members

On the Cover: Julie Bonacio Family Pavilion “…the beating heart of our Pines campus.” 

SARATOGA SPRINGS – At its Annual Meeting on June 17, 2021, Saratoga Performing Arts Center (SPAC) reflected upon the challenges and opportunities presented by 2020 and looked ahead to its reopening in 2021. Following a year of a shuttered amphitheater stage due to the COVID-19 pandemic, SPAC will welcome back all three resident companies – New York City Ballet, The Philadelphia Orchestra and Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center — in addition to hosting its iconic Freihofer’s Saratoga Jazz Festival, a popular concert lineup presented by Live Nation, the return of Caffè Lena @ SPAC, and a special evening dedicated to Health Care Workers.  

“On Monday, May 18 of 2020, SPAC did the unthinkable. In the middle of glorious high spring weather, after 53 continuous years of presenting on our beloved and legendary stage, we cancelled an entire season and left the doors to the amphitheater locked — a profound and solemn acknowledgement during some of the darkest, early days of the pandemic,” said Elizabeth Sobol, president & CEO of Saratoga Performing Arts Center at the Annual Meeting.“And yet, here we are. After what now seems an eternity, the amphitheater is open, the lawn is thick and green, and our first concert takes place tomorrow night.”

Facility Improvements:

In 2020, with generous funding from Live Nation, Empire State Development, and NYS Parks Recreation & Historic Preservation, SPAC completed its major new capital project, The Pines@SPAC. The project restored park-like aesthetics to the grounds and opened up original site lines from the Route 50 Gate to the Victoria Pool. It provided for brand new and vastly expanded restrooms and concessions areas – and new measures for safety and security. In addition, it provided new spaces for gathering outside of the amphitheater: The Julie Bonacio Family Pavilion; The Pines Terrace; and the Nancy Di Cresce Education Room at The Pines, SPAC’s first year-round space for education and community outreach.

Sobol noted, “Nowhere is SPAC’s transformation more dramatically evident than in the presence of our new Pines@SPAC facility. The project began with the intent to replace aging concessions and bathroom facilities – but quickly expanded its scope to align with our new mission. In celebration of nature and our unique place within, the new facilities opened up original site lines, restoring a beautiful Park aesthetic to our campus… to accommodate our growing education program, the Nancy Di Cresce Education Room serves as our first year-round indoor gathering space… and as part of our role as a communal gathering place, the beautiful Julie Bonacio Family Pavilion has now become the beating heart of our Pines campus.” 

The project will have its official ribbon cutting later this season.

Educational Programming & Community Outreach:

SPAC’s season kicked off on June 5, 2021 with its signature education event, The Adirondack Trust Company Festival of Young Artists, celebrating the artistic achievements of more than 200 local student dancers, singers, musicians, poets and visual artists. At the meeting, the festival’s 2021 Outstanding Artist Winner in Literary Arts, Pallavi Datti, recited her poem “Unvanquished.”

Another highlight of SPAC’s educational programming for 2021 will be NYCB Workshops including a “Children’s Workshop” on SPAC’s stage on July 13 that will teach children choreography inspired by Balanchine’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream; an “In Motion Workshop” for experienced young dancers that will teach choreography inspired by Martin’s Swan Lake and one “Access Workshop” on July 17 designed for children with disabilities.

Additionally, SPAC will once again partner with National Dance Institute (NDI) and Double H Ranch to bring a series of virtual dance workshops to the campers. Approximately 250 campers will participate in the workshops, which are designed to incorporate NDI’s award-winning dance pedagogy into inclusive classrooms where children of all abilities can dance and perform.

Summer Nights at SPAC, which serves Schenectady families, will also return with four movie nights on the SPAC lawn and live performances by local musicians.

SPAC Board Member News:

The board welcomed Carl DeBrule as a new member of SPAC’s board of directors. DeBrule has over 22 years of experience in business, operations and technical leadership experience driving high performance teams and operational innovations. His current role is with Johnson and Johnson Corporation as Vice President Global Applications Development Engineering Processes and Testing. Carl received his Bachelor of Arts from George Washington University. He and his wife continue to support SPAC through Membership. 

Sean Leonard also joined SPAC’s board of directors at the annual meeting. He is currently Chief Investment Officer and Partner with Graypoint LLC with 13 years in finance. He is a pragmatic, growth oriented and execution focused leader. Sean received his Bachelor of Arts degree from University of Buffalo and his MBA from University of Albany. 

Chris Mackey, who joined SPAC’s board at the meeting, has thirty-four years of diversified wholesale and retail automotive experience and success in the management and development of all aspects of franchised retail automobile dealership operations. He received his Bachelor of Science degree from Boston College. Chris has supported SPAC through various Corporate Partnerships as Managing Member and 95% owner of Saratoga Ford and Saratoga Subaru.

Dr. L. Oliver Robinson was also welcomed as a new board member. Dr. Robinson has had an unwavering commitment to, and belief in, the transcending and transforming power of a quality and equitable education for all students for twenty-six years. He received his Bachelor of Arts degree from Brown University and both his Master of Science and PhD from the State University of New York at Albany. Dr. Robinson is currently the Superintendent of Schools for the Shenendehowa Central School District in Clifton Park, NY. 

Photo: Bigler Photography

2021 Season Dates:

Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center

June 13 – August 29

At Pitney Meadows Community Farm

New York City Ballet: On and Off Stage

July 14 – 17

Opera Saratoga | Man of La Mancha

July 8-10

The Philadelphia Orchestra

August 11 – 14

For tickets and more information, visit 

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