Q. What do you consider your biggest accomplishment since taking over as president and executive director in 2005?
A. (Long pause) I think SPAC feels different. When you come here now, it’s obvious you’re coming to a community — to a community event. You’re unplugging, maybe having a picnic on the lawn. You feel the energy and excitement because it’s the SPAC experience. The experience is more important than what is on the stage and generations will want to come back to SPAC because there’s something very different. To me, it’s a little spiritual almost.
Q. Which performer made you the most star-struck to meet?
A. That’s an easy one. First, I don’t get star struck at all. Bruce Springsteen was coming and my daughters were saying “he’s great” and “he’s The Boss.” I said, the boss of what? Then I saw him on stage warming up. I didn’t even see his face and it was like wow. There’s something about that man, the charisma, the energy. All you have to do is look at him.
Q. Tell me about the greatest day here at SPAC since you took over?
A. The day we had a press conference in 2005 and were announcing the capital improvement grant with Gov. (George) Pataki and Sen. (Joseph) Bruno. During that time, Marylou Whitney was coming back on the SPAC board and we announced that we had five new donors who each pledged $100,000 for five years. That really was the beginning of feeling that SPAC could make it.
Q. Of course I always have to ask about the worst day. What day made you cringe or cry or want to quit?
A. There was a challenging day that turned around into an amazing day. It was the final performance of West Side Story and there was a horrendous storm with torrential rain. We went into the parking lots and told people to stay in their cars, but others were already inside ... We were on stage with big brooms sweeping water off the stage. The New York City Ballet warms up behind the curtain before the show and I said we’re going to raise the curtain. The audience applauded as they warmed and I’m getting goose bumps talking about it. We took adversity and made something great.
Q. What is in your CD player or on your iPod right now?
A. I still like Norah Jones. Adele. And what I’ll do is pick up a CD of artists we have coming here and listen to them, like classical pianist Daniil Trifonov. He’s the next hot thing.
Q. Tell me a neat secret about SPAC that few would know?
A. We just discovered that that some funding for SPAC came from the horse industry. People would donate stud fees. They were committed to make SPAC work. And John Hay Whitney and Penny Chenery donated part of the sale of Secretariat to SPAC.
Q. Which performance since 2005 would you consider the most epic?
A. For me it was (pianist) Van Cliburn coming back. That was our 40th anniversary. He was a household name when he won the Moscow competition and I remember as a little girl watching that on TV. He had a presence you couldn’t believe. He was still very tall, very Texas, and we were coming down to go back stage and he looked at the audience and turned to me and said, “All these people are here for me?” He was still so modest and so endearing.
Q. What is Marcia White’s guilty pleasure?
A. Oh, chocolate! Oh, my God. And I love to, when I’m a little stressed, my favorite thing is to go get a Stewart’s make-your-own sundae.
Q. I notice a lot more country acts. Why is that and do you like country?
A. I do now. It was my least favorite. I think more and more artists are transitioning to country. Miley Cyrus, the winner of the “The Voice,” Danielle Bradbury. It has a large insurgence now. More people like it, maybe because it’s more story based.
Q. Why is the ballet and Philadelphia Orchestra important to SPAC?
A. It’s our legacy and heritage. It’s what sets us apart from other venues. The way SPAC was built by the community, beginning with the New York City Ballet and the Philadelphia Orchestra, it’s our legacy and heritage.
Q. I’ve read great stories about bands demanding bizarre things. Tell me the funniest or most bizarre request you know of?
A. Off the top of my head, high-quality beef jerky, but I don’t remember who requested it.
Q. Your kids have to be Brady Bunch-era kids. Did any ever give you the “Marcia, Marcia, Marcia” line?
A. I didn’t get “Marcia, Marcia, Marcia,” but I did get a Brady Bunch reference once. At one point in my career, I said maybe it’s time for me to not work so hard and go part time. One of them said, “What is this? Are you going to become the mother of the Brady Bunch and stay home and bake cupcakes. I don’t think so.”
Q. Few may realize you were a nurse before serving as an aide to Sen. Joe Bruno. How did nursing prepare you for your role at SPAC?
A. It’s psych nursing. It’s insanity. It’s damage control. But it’s also the discipline that comes with nursing. It’s a fabulous foundation. If you were in a hospital passing meds and someone was having a heart attack, you wouldn’t say “When I get done with my meds, I’ll take care of that.” You drop what you’re doing and solve the problem and then go back and do what you’re doing. That happens every day here. It’s incredibly important to manage that way.
Q. What was the most powerful lesson you learned from Bruno?
A. One of the things he taught all of us, the most important thing is to serve the people. Just like our audience is most important now. He said nobody will remember the bills we passed, they’ll remember if they had an issue with their welfare check or Medicare and you helped them with that.
Q. You orchestrated major renovations here in 2006-07, what plans do you have for the future?
A. I’d love to have some major plans if the economy turns around ... I’d love to have a new shell for the orchestra, new lighting, more camera projectors and really the ability to use video and technology to project images on a background. It’s incredibly important keeping up with technology. It’s the vision of tomorrow.