Meet: Sarah Koon

Sarah Koon

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As the 50+ musicians of “Shine A Light On 1969” gathered on stage at The Queen for the closing song of the show, the new executive director of the Light Up The Queen Foundation was right there among them. In the first in our series about the Women of Market during Women’s History Month, we’re chatting with Sarah Koon (left in above photo) about how this very popular annual fundraiser will support the programs of the LUTQ Foundation. But we started by asking her to think back to that moment on stage as the show ended…
“That picture comes from the very end of the show, the last song, ‘Carry That Weight’ by the Beatles. Everyone was just feeling so elated and happy and there’s so much energy in that picture. And we were also feeling so relieved after the huge amount of energy and time and care and dedication that went into planning this show. I got hired in November, but others have been working on this all year.”

“The show was the music of 1969. It was rock, it was pop, it was funk, it was soul. A little bit of country. I played a blues song. And that image just shows this moment where all of our long-term goals have been met, and we’ve raised all of the funds for some really cool programming for arts and music education.”

“We’re all musicians because we had access to music education. That’s what made us who we are today. All of us. So being able to contribute to the next generation of kids who will get to have music and art as an anchor in their life, that’s super exciting.”

By all reports, it was a great show.

“We had more musicians on stage than ever, more instruments than ever. And the sound was so good. Chase sponsored and contributed a good deal of money so that we could raise the production values. And I felt like you could tell.”

So tell us about how you come into the executive director job at the Light Up The Queen Foundation?

“So, I have an eclectic background. I have bachelors degree in theater, and I toured with a theater group for a few years. I also am a classical pianist and have a classical music background.”

Wait, did you play around while growing up in Delaware?

“Yes! I did do some competitive piano, at festivals and competitions. I played at a University of Delaware competition every year. I think I won a few awards, some second places. I definitely travelled a bit, to Pennsylvania and Virginia, and I even got to go to North Carolina one summer.”

“But I was in Los Angeles for a while and when I moved back to Wilmington in 2012, one of my first jobs was at The Queen. It was just a really fun part-time job and I got to get into free shows and have music in my life. Through that, I met a lot of people in the community here and felt really welcomed as a musician. And at the same time, I had been working in nonprofit sector, in everything from teaching ESL to adult education to vaccinating dogs to working at food banks. So having a 10-year background in nonprofits on top of having the background as a performer, this was really a great fit for me.”

So what’s next for the foundation, with the money raised at Shine A Light?

“It’s an exciting time. The LUTQ Foundation is moving into its second phase of existence. It was originally created to raise funds and restore the theater – and, as you can see, The Queen is up. It’s running. It’s successful. We completed our mission. Yea! Now we’re revamping to zero in on music and arts education.”

“We have new programs that we’re starting to pilot. There’s a musical theater camp for kids who don’t have access to summer camp programs, being presented through Summer Collab. I’m really excited to explore new partnerships like that. We will be also having an event in the spring to support the Christian Salcedo Music Scholarship. Music costs money to learn, and it costs money to make. We want to find a way to provide music scholarships for bright young kids from low-income families, so they can take a year’s worth of private lessons and get an instrument.”

So, last year, the show was Shine A Light On 1968. This year, 1969. Do we go into the ‘70s next year?

“I don’t know! We’ve been throwing ideas back and forth. Personally, I would love to get into the ‘80s because I want to fill that stage with synthesizers and do some cool new wave. But it goes through a whole committee of people. It’s just exciting to be starting up again.”