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Ilse Newell to resume concerts in 2021

Special to the Times

The board of directors for the Ilse Newell Fund for the Performing Arts is working on plans for a shortened 2021 concert season.

Due to the COVID-19 virus, no indoor programs are being held during the winter months of 2020, but plans are to kick off the season in 2021 when the weather allows for programs in outdoor venues.

Fran Edwards

In September, the board sadly accepted the resignation of longtime board member Fran Edwards. For 10 years Edwards was a driving force on the board, securing talent and funding, and planning the post-concert receptions that were anticipated as much as the performances. In addition, she served as treasurer of the board from 2010 until her resignation this year.

Edwards was also the driving force behind the creation of a season playbill for the Ilse Newell concerts. The first playbill was produced in 2017 as a 16-page booklet with 27 advertisers from the local business community supporting the playbill. In 2019 it had grown to a 28-page booklet with 51 advertisers. Edwards will now be a board member emeritus.

Three new board members were unanimously accepted onto the board in September. They include Liz Sisung, Karen Brown and Paul Brown, no relation.

Karen Brown, born in Apalachicola, has lived in Franklin Country all her life. Following her graduation from Florida A & M College of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, she opened and operated two community retail pharmacies in Eastpoint and Carrabelle. Karen currently is the manager of pharmacy operations at Ascension Sacred Heart Gulf Hospital in Port St. Joe.

She began volunteering for the Ilse Newell concerts in 2017 where she’s been a greeter at the door, and assisted Edwards with the Ilse Newell after-concert receptions.

Paul Brown moved to Port St. Joe from Dayton, Ohio in 2018. He and his wife Neldys Crespo are members of the First United Methodist Church of Port St. Joe where he is the director of music and worship arts. Paul and Neldys have performed with the Bay Area Choral Society, singing in the “Seven Last Words,” “Sing We Now of Christmas,” and the 2019 Veterans Day performance.

Paul was the guest conductor for the 2019 EvenSong service and chorale, and the “Songs of Spirit” concert. He is looking forward to helping build and expand local music and musical arts through the Ilse Newell Fund for the Performing Arts.

Liz Sisung, who settled in Eastpoint in 1985, has been involved in the community serving in many organizations and committees as a volunteer and in various leadership capacities. Her musical interest started with violin in the fifth grade which gave her the background and knowledge to later pursue vocal music.

As president of the Bay Area Choral Society, she was involved in the process of the new piano purchase by the Ilse Newell Fund in 2019, has led the outreach to the business community for generating advertising support in the Ilse Newell playbills, and looks forward to continuing to bring quality musical performances to the Forgotten Coast through the Ilse Newell concert series.

The three new members join the existing board members who are Rick Watson, president; Mark Curenton, treasurer; Shirley Taylor, secretary; Carol Guild, marketing chair; Ginny Griner, and Robert MacMillan.

On Sept. 23, the Ilse Newell Fund for the Performing Arts was notified they have been renewed for grant funding from the Franklin County Tourist Development Council and Franklin County Board of Commissioners. This funding will be used to promote the 2021 season, and the board wants to publicly thank the TDC and commissioners for their ongoing support of the Ilse Newell Concert Series.