Sheldon Soffer

A harbinger of pride to the Catskills

By KEN PARKS
Posted 7/7/21

Sheldon Soffer, 93, born August 20, 1927, passed away in Florida on July 23, 2021. A vital force in the arts community of Sullivan County for many years, Sheldon and his late partner, Stanley Segal, …

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Sheldon Soffer

A harbinger of pride to the Catskills

Posted

Sheldon Soffer, 93, born August 20, 1927, passed away in Florida on July 23, 2021. A vital force in the arts community of Sullivan County for many years, Sheldon and his late partner, Stanley Segal, were active supporters of many local arts organizations, including the Delaware Valley Arts Alliance (they owned an extensive collection of River Fest posters second to none) and the Delaware Valley Opera, Sheldon having served as president of the board for a number of years.

Sheldon was also an active board member of Catskill Pride, and Sheldon and Stanley were pioneers of the gay community of this area. In an era long before the internet and social media connected people, most new gay residents met each other through introductions at parties held at their summer home in Damascus, PA. 

A New York native, Sheldon Soffer started out as a music composition student. He then developed a career in conducting, and led performances of “Norma,” a year-long tour of “Teahouse of the August Moon” and even “Swan Lake.” As assistant conductor of the Provincetown Symphony, he became involved in orchestra management; this led to the founding of his own firm, Sheldon Soffer Management, in 1965. Over the following 35 years, he represented dancers and musicians of every description: representing opera singers and other artists, including such diverse clients as Ravi Shankar, and the pioneering dance troupe, Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo.

Aside from handling artists, Sheldon was a pioneer of two special projects. He was responsible for introducing the Suzuki Method of violin teaching in the United States at the request of the Japanese Consulate. A pilot teaching program in Rochester, NY, with funding he secured from the New York State Council on the Arts, demonstrated that American parents would respond with the strong support for their children that the method requires, and Suzuki entered America’s music culture. He also created the Music and Dance Project at the American Dance Festival, matching young choreographers with composers for new commissioned work. Sheldon was also on the board of the New York-based Young Concert Artists and the Dance Notation Bureau. 

Sheldon leaves behind a loving family of relatives. Family was very important to him, and the love was evident anytime a large gathering of friends and family was held to mark his milestone birthdays. Anyone who knew Sheldon also knew of his love of animals, especially his beloved golden retrievers. He often gave them names associated with opera characters, and among them were Figaro I and II, and Florestan (named for a character in Beethoven’s Fidelio), who was by his side at the end. 

Several informal memorial gatherings are being planned by the different groups to whom Sheldon meant so much. Truly the end of an era, Sheldon Soffer will be remembered with great fondness by the friends whose lives he touched in so many ways.

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