Dear Hilton Head Symphony Orchestra Family,

When I started my journey with the orchestra eleven years ago I must have known that the day would come when I would make the decision to step down yet I’ve given little thought to departing until now. The search for my successor is well under way.

In March of 2008 a member of the HHSO board approached me and asked if I would be interested in leaving my position as Assistant Superintendent of Beaufort County Schools to come lead the HHSO. At that time I had been in the education field for over 35 years. My entire adult life had been dedicated to the education of young people first in the area of music, and later across all curriculum areas and all grade levels including college. But my enduring lifelong love had been, and continues to be, music. So after consultation with my family and several interviews with the HHSO Board search committee I decided to accept the position and have never looked back.

The past eleven years have certainly held their challenges (the economy immediately went into a nose dive) and the orchestra along with every arts organization across the country endured a multi-year fight for our very existence. We cut back expenses in staffing and numbers of concerts, froze salaries and used most of our available reserve funds to keep going and to avoid the bankruptcy that doomed many orchestras.

In 2011 we made the difficult decision to make a change in our artistic leadership. Our selection of John Morris Russell as Music Director has proved to re-energize our musician and audience bases and has contributed greatly to the positive growth of the organization.

In the past few years the organization has grown in a number of ways as our resources have allowed. We have developed sound five year strategic goals to guide us to financial stability and to provide the path and strategies for growth.

One of those areas has been near and dear to me – our work with Youth through a number of programs both in the schools and after school, our Youth Concerto Competition, the Hilton Head Chamber Music Institute, and the continuing expansion and diversification of the International Piano Competition.

Our newest area of growth is in our programming of more intimate, interactive performances in private homes as well as our SoundWaves location.

Through all of this I have had the privilege and pleasure to work with a wonderful team that includes  dedicated, hardworking staff, talented musicians and devoted board members. Come next July I plan to spend more time with my husband Mike and our large family and to travel, something we both love. I will continue to support the community organizations that I value and my heart and support will always remain with the HHSO.

This is the first of many opportunities to say thanks for the opportunity to serve you.

Mary Briggs

Under Briggs’ s guidance, the Hilton Head Symphony Orchestra has grown to be one of the area’s leading cultural organizations. Its reputation for quality and diversity in music programing has been recognized by its growth in subscribers, with attendance reaching record levels. Concerts have increased from nine to eighteen a year, new educational initiatives been successful, and a new event and rehearsal space for the symphony has been established. All point to  the HHSO’s continued growth and success for the years to come.