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Susan E. Cunningham PhD (1958 – 2015)
Performer & Songwriter – Fiddle, Mandolin, Piano, Guitar, Flutes, vocals and Tin Whistle

 

Sue Cunningham co-developed and produced the bluegrass and acoustic music festival originally known as “Music in The Mountains” which began in 2002.

“Hickory Fest”, a nationally recognized music festival, continues to bring the best in bluegrass and acoustic music to the rural area of north-central Pennsylvania, promoting tourism and boosting the local Wellsboro economy.

Sue, along with generous help from her family and friends, produced Hickory Fest for 13 years, with performances from world-class musicians, singers, and songwriters.

A 1976 graduate of Churchill Area High School in Pennsylvania, Sue earned a BS in materials science and engineering from Cornell University; MS and PhD in Mechanical Engineering from Carnegie Mellon University, and MBA in Management (Sloan Fellows Program) from Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Sue specialized in jet engines and worked as an engineer, manager and business developer for several companies. At Westinghouse Electric Company in Pittsburgh Pa, she contributed to the materials design of fuel rods for nuclear power plants. At Pratt & Whitney in Florida and Connecticut, she led development of the F119 turbine module to successful incorporation, in flight testing and low rate initial production.

At Florida Turbine Technologies in Jupiter Florida, Sue led development of the small engine program and was Director of Business Development, establishing relationships with government and commercial customers. Her vision and drive were coupled with a professional, caring personality, which successfully drew people toward her ideas.

Sue grew up in a musical family, where her parents encouraged all the kids to learn to play. The Cunningham family was recognized by the Amateur Music Conference as the ‘Annual Amateur Music Making Family of the Year 1973’ and appeared on the television show "To Tell the Truth".


Sue was a classically trained violinist, and played in the Pittsburgh Youth Symphony Orchestra. She then turned her focus to her love of bluegrass music and performed with brothers Tom and Steve as the Flying Cunninghams from 1981 – 1988. The Flying Cunninghams made a practice of re-uniting once or twice a year and always at Hickory Fest. Her brothers lovingly referred to Sue as “the nuclear fiddler”, or “Flying Sue Cunningham”. 

Sue was awarded the Florida State Fiddle Championship three times between 1991 and 1994.

Sue was also a member of the South Ocean String Band from 1989 - 1998
and White Sands Panhandle Band in Florida from 1998 - 2000;
A founding member of Hickory Project from 2000 - 2008, which toured the United States, Ireland, Australia and Europe.
Sue was also a founding member in the Rowan Cunningham Band, and toured nationaly from 2008 – 2014.
Sue fronted The Sue Cunningham Band from Wellsboro Pa. which reunited Sue with her friend Dan Shipe from her Hickory Project days. Additionally, Sue often performed with acclaimed musicians including Vassar Clements, Peter Rowan, The Harris Brothers and Jim Lauderdale, to mention a few.

Sue’s last and most recent musical project, ‘Find Your Angel’, was four years in the making and a labor of love. Sue in collaboration with partner Frank Serio and their good friend Verlon Thompson created ‘Find Your Angel’, the story of a southern belle from Vicksburg Mississippi who lived through the Civil War. They produced a CD and Verlon and Sue performed their ‘operetta’ to rapt audiences all around the country.

 

We honor Sue’s memory by keeping her legacy alive through:

 Sue Cunningham Memorial Music Scholarship

at the Dreyfoos School of the Arts Foundation

P.O. Box 552

West Palm Beach, FL 33402

The Scholarship will be awarded annually to an outstanding young violinist in an effort to help them further their musical training. We are also going to make every effort to bring the winner of the scholarship up to Wellsboro to perform on the Hickory Fest stage. This scholarship honors Sue in a beautiful way as she loved nothing more than sharing her musical talent and teaching young people.

Sue Cunningham was a highly accomplished Mechanical Engineer as well as a world renowned musician, singer and songwriter. Sue, beyond all that, truly touched the hearts of everyone she met with her wonderful music and kind, loving spirit. Sue was and continues to be an inspiration to us all. Everyone who had the privilege of meeting Sue, felt right away that she was something special, and an angel among us.

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