However, the artistic director at the time was Murray Somerville, who concurrently served as choirmaster at the Cathedral Church of St. Luke in Orlando. Somerville seemed in no hurry to leave, and it was clear that there would be a change only when Tiedtke decided that there ought to be. Nearly five years passed before Somerville left for a position as organist and choirmaster at Harvard University’s Memorial Church and the baton — literally and figuratively — was passed. “Mr. Tiedtke knew I had strong opinions,” recalls Sinclair, whose wife, Gail, is an American literature expert and executive director of the Rollins Winter Park Institute. “But he could be persuaded in some instances. Basically, he said, ‘You pick what you want to do and I get veto power.’” The society, which is technically a separate organization from Rollins depsite its historic ties, is funded by grants, donations, ticket sales and an endowment, which was initially bolstered by gifts from the Elizabeth Morse Genius Foundation and from Tiedtke himself, who continued to serve as president until 2003. He died the following year at 97. Just before his death, Rollins established the John M. Tiedtke Endowed Chair of Music. For once, the man for whom the chair was named wasn’t asked to write a check. Others contributed generously, including an anonymous $250,000 donation that was later revealed to have come from one Fred McFeely Rogers, Class of ’51. A music composition major who became TV’s Mister Rogers, he befriended the Sinclairs during his frequent Winter Park visits. Sinclair was appointed as the Tiedtke chair’s first recipient. “It was an honor to know these two brilliant and good men,” Sinclair says of Tiedke 66 LIVING IN WINTER PARK and McKean, who died in 1995. “They were great role models for me.” Living up to the examples set by Tiedtke and McKean has been a continuing priority for Sinclair. Tiedkte believed that well-run, well-supported arts organizations were integral to any enlightened community, and Mc- Kean believed that any academician worth his salt was first and foremost a classroom teacher. Susan Tucker, who sings in the Bach Festival Choir, has admired Sinclair’s synthesis of organizational prowess, intellectual heft and personal empathy for more than 25 years. “John is one of the most intellectual conductors I’ve ever known, as well as being a consummate teacher,” says Tucker. “One of the things I enjoy most is that he informs us about the composers and the works we’re presenting. That allows us to better perform each one. Plus, he’s compassionate and easy to talk to.” Tucker and others say that Sinclair’s expressive, sometimes theatrical conducting style brings out the best in choirs and orchestras — professional and amateur — energizing both familiar masterworks and seldom-heard compositions that Sinclair has chosen to pluck from obscurity. Eric Ravndal, society president since 2004, is a retired Episcopal priest and a Tiedtke cousin. Under his leadership, the organization has been revamped as a more traditionally structured not-for-profit, with a diverse board and a paid staff. “John is a natural educator,” says Ravndal. “I attend nearly every rehearsal. And I can tell you that the musicians never leave a rehearsal without having learned more about the music they’re performing. It’s an incredible gift.” In addition to his duties at college and with the society, Sinclair is one Every season, performances by the Bach Festival Choir and Orchestra are among the hottest tickets in town.
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