Our Story

Lancaster is a “Goldilocks” city — it is big enough to support a strong arts community and yet small enough to have its doors open to new ideas and organizations. In other words, it’s “just right”.

WHAT IS PENN SQUARE MUSIC FESTIVAL?

The idea for this company was born as Founder and Artistic Director Scott Drackley watched his son participate in several Young Artist programs around the U.S. He realized our region lacks educational opportunities of this caliber to offer aspiring singers. The presence of professional opera is also absent in the region. Addressing those needs is the impetus behind Penn Square Music Festival.

The Festival has two goals:
To provide a professional performance and training opportunity for artists of excellence at the beginning of their career in a nurturing, supportive atmosphere
To bring professional performances of opera and musical theatre to Lancaster audiences and region.

WHY DO WE DO IT?

The answer is Excellence in Singing. Singing opera is a very demanding profession. Singers must always be at the top of their game: auditioning, constantly studying not only their instrument, but languages, repertoire, acting, dance; and always marketing themselves to future employers.

Singers need to have a supportive atmosphere to grow professionally and vocally, to make connections, and to receive the encouragement needed to continue in this demanding career.
Penn Square Music Festival is a professional training opportunity for these artists and a great lyric-theater experience for the region’s audiences.

QUICK POINTS

• Our focus is on education through performance. Participants receive opportunities to perform and cover (understudy) appropriate roles in Festival productions and to work with world-class artistic staff.

• In a nurturing environment, our Artists are given the opportunity to raise their artistry to the highest possible level, to develop and polish essential stagecraft and performance skills aided by an experienced artistic staff.

• A professional company, where all artists and creative staff are paid. Penn Square Music Festival is not a “pay to sing” program. Rather, we are committed to providing a professional experience for the Artists, one that is not otherwise available within an approximately 200-mile radius.

• Penn Square Music Festival fills a void by bringing professional Opera and classic Musical Theatre to the Lancaster community and wider region, accompanied by full orchestra as the composers intended.

• Lancaster is “the new Brooklyn” (New York Post, September 2016) Our thriving arts community, from visual to dramatic to musical, is one that also recently inspired the blog post moneyunder30.com to rank Lancaster as one of the 5 best cities in the country. Professional Opera and Classic Musical Theatre in the heart of this vibrant scene will only add to the attraction.

WHO DO WE SERVE?

Singers at the Start of Their Careers: Artists are always in need of places to perform appropriate operatic roles. Penn Square Music Festival will provide a supportive environment where they can perform on a professional stage. But there is a new challenge for them in the 21st century as well. The performers in the Festival will be paid and housed in Lancaster. This will be their full-time job in the rehearsal weeks leading up to the festival. They will also have the opportunity to perform for the community in ways beyond their work in the main-stage productions, something that is also necessary for their career development.

The Community: Lancaster and the surrounding region deserve a strong professional opera presence to enhance the vibrant and burgeoning arts scene. As artists, our hope is to entertain and to enrich the lives, minds and hearts of our communities and the individuals in them by giving them access to those great composers and writers who, over the decades and centuries, have proven to be among humanity’s most significant thinkers. On a more practical plane, we hope to attract a new group of people eager to spend their entertainment dollars in the Lancaster area. On average, opera attendees have different values, tastes and economic standing than other tourists. We hope they will help to fill hotels and restaurants and take advantage of Lancaster’s other attractions as well. On another level, Penn Square Music Festival will be employing talented local musicians, local production personnel and renting local facilities. We intend on hiring around 65% of our employees, primarily the orchestra and production personnel, locally. In other words – spending money in Lancaster.

WHY LANCASTER?

Already a tourist magnet with much to offer, Lancaster is the perfect place for Penn Square Music Festival. The Lancaster Newspaper states: “Consistent annual visitation (is) hovering between 8 million and 10 million people. (That’s a staggering number when you consider that the county’s current total resident population is a mere 5 percent of the estimated annual visitation. That means there are 20 visitors for each resident.)”

The city’s downtown has been revitalized, the visual arts are thriving, theater is alive and well; and with the construction of Clipper Stadium, a new group of people began to visit Lancaster, proving the “if you build it, they will come” theory. There is already an audience base, people who value and support the arts.

A professional summer opera/musical theatre festival fills a need that has not been met in this region. The other closest summer opera festivals are Wolf Trap, in Vienna, Virginia, and the Glimmerglass Music Festival in Cooperstown New York. (by the way — both are also good examples of the “if you build it…” theory: Wolf Trap is built on former farmland outside of Washington, D.C. and Glimmerglass in the open spaces of upstate New York) Both are major players in the training and showcasing of young artists, both draw consistently large opera audiences from distant places and both are more than 100 miles from Lancaster.

Cooperstown, NY, with a population of 1,800 people, is the home of The Glimmerglass Festival. From an article entitled Art is Essential, Not Extra by altranet.org, General Director Francesca Zambello is quoted: “The Glimmerglass Festival’s $8 million budget plants a $21 million footprint in the region. The Festival has a vital economic and social impact on the region, with 36,000 tickets sold annually to visitors from throughout the United States and 11 foreign countries.”

Opera and musical theatre enthusiasts from Boston, New York City, Philadelphia, New Jersey, Maryland, Delaware, Washington D.C. and beyond would easily consider a short vacation in Lancaster anchored to the Festival.

PENN SQUARE MUSIC FESTIVAL BOARD

Joshua Rinier, Board President
Jay Butterfield | Brian Salldin
Kristin Sims | Phyllis Drackley
Scott Drackley | Susan Young Nicholas

Scott Drackley, Artistic Director

Scott G. Drackley has been involved in the opera world for 40 years. He holds a Bachelor of Arts from Lebanon Valley College, and a Master of Music in Vocal Accompanying and Coaching from The Catholic University of America. He has been a director, vocal coach, accompanist and conductor for many opera companies on the East Coast. Mr. Drackley has conducted such operas as Le Nozze di Figaro, Die Zauberflöte, Il barbiere di Siviglia, Don Pasquale, Faust, La Traviata, Falstaff, Carmen, Madama Butterfly, Tosca, La Boheme, and The Ballad or Baby Doe. He has also conducted such Musical Theatre productions as The Most Happy Fella, Carousel, The Sound of Music, Oklahoma, Meet me in St. Louis, Guys and Dolls, Irene, The Pajama Game, Anything Goes, No, No, Nanette, Hello, Dolly, The Music Man, and The Scarlet Pimpernel.


As Founder and Artistic Director, the idea for Penn Square Music Festival came from seeing Mr. Drackley’s son participate in several Young Artist programs and noticing the lack of such programs in the Lancaster region. Lancaster County has so much to offer in the way of tourism and community spirit making it an ideal setting for this Festival. The goal is to provide a nurturing environment for rising opera singers and musical theatre performers of excellence to develop their craft and make connections as they start their careers. It is also his desire to enhance the musical life of the Lancaster Community; to give back to the community and to young rising talent.