1934 – 2021
“To live in hearts we leave behind is not to die.”
I share a tribute to the life of my best friend, my mom.
Susan Doreen Fisher Clickner, 86, (2 weeks away from her 87th birthday) died at home with me of Breast Cancer. She is survived by her daughter, Karen Clickner of Holden; her daughter, Jennifer Engle, husband Raphael, and their son Tristan (Susan’s youngest grandchild) of Geneva, Switzerland; I, her daughter Wendy Prescott whom Susan lived with in Shrewsbury; her granddaughter, Rachel Hudson and husband Steele of West Boylston; and her grandson, Josh Prescott and wife Ashley of Shrewsbury. She was predeceased by her parents, Kenneth H. Fisher and Doris L. Glunz.
Susan was born in Buffalo, N.Y, and spent her childhood moving from town to town, due to her dad’s work. She always wanted to live in one place for a long span of time. She knew from an early age that singing would become her life, as she was already performing around New York state before graduating from Watertown High School in 1951.
Having only been at that school two years, she was an active student. She was on a literary board, and was the vice president of the Latin and French clubs. She was a registered member of the daughters of the American Revolution, although never followed in their conservative (at that time) footsteps. She majored in music at Indiana University for her undergraduate degree, and toured the country performing. Then she was accepted into the elite Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia to obtain her Artists Diploma. It is one of the most selective institutes of higher education in the world. She won the Philadelphia young artists competion with the Philadelphia orchestra, and was featured on television premiering several operas as the soloist.
After graduation, she went back home to upstate New York to get married and start a family. Years later, she relocated as a single mom of three girls to Shrewsbury in 1969, where she would make a home for the remainder of her life. She had recorded with folkways records, was on radio and television, and performed extensively throughout the United States, including Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center in New York City.
Throughout Europe, she performed in opera houses and theaters with major symphonies, and also appeared in music festivals. She performed in opera, oratorio, chamber music, recital and with orchestra as a mezzo soprano soloist.
She was an active member of Pi Kappa Lambda, a music honorary society, and the National Association of Teachers of Singing. She was a founding faculty member of the Worcester Performing Arts School in Worcester, taught classical voice privately out of her home, and started the voice department at Clark University in Worcester, where she worked from 1970 to 1983. She also performed many times at Tanglewood, with the Boston Symphony Orchestra under the conductor Seiji Ozawa, and became a fellow at Tanglewood for several years. Simultaneously, she taught classical voice at The New England Conservatory of Music in Boston, which is the oldest independent music conservatory in the country, and among the most prestigious in the world.
From 1972 to 2005, she taught students at NEC from all over the world, and usually had a lengthy waiting list of people trying to get into her studio. She did workshops and monthly master classes both in and out of school, and judged numerous vocal competitions. She was head of the voice department for most of the 90’s. I think the second female to ever hold that position in the school’s history. She also sat on the board for a sexual harassment committee that protected students, a faculty steering committee and theory committee.
She advocated for several colleagues to negotiate better employment terms, health insurance coverage and wage increases for them. While teaching at NEC, she was interviewed and featured on a PBS special on television. She is listed on the international Who’s Who in music, and is also registered on the American Who’s Who in Women. She retired at 72 years old and still corresponded with her students up until her death. Many would call and send letters updating her on their lives, and career highlights. They always gave high praise for the impact she had on their lives not just professionally, but personally.
At home, she threw parties for students and faculty, brought stranded students home with us during the holidays, as well as colleagues that were alone for Christmas. She was a second mother to many foreign students away from home, and occasionally she was the sole support for students abandoned by their family after sharing they were gay. Her support was most appreciated during the AIDS crisis in the ’80s, when she had several students impacted by the disease.
Susan kept every correspondence from her students which amounted to boxes and boxes of recital programs, head shots, cassettes, CDs, family photos, holiday cards and hundreds of lengthy letters. Each box full of memories from mentors in the ’50s, colleagues and students from the ’70s to today. She celebrated their professional and personal successes, often smiling while showing me their new babies or grandchildren, or giving me their letters to read detailing their lives and gratitude to her. I spent her last three months reading the ones from the last 20 years to her, so she could be reminded of her impact.
She was a lifelong collector of antiques, etchings, paintings, sculptures, old books with illustrations, children’s books, cloisonné pieces, pitchers, pottery, ceramics, boxes, baskets and china.
She wasn’t a multitasker, as we discovered when playing music and making conversation while she was driving…only to end up going down a one-way street the wrong way! She always spoke of hearing music in her head 24/7, so I can see how that would be a bit distracting. I’m surprised we all survived that Summer of 78 with Sue at the wheel in her Buick, driving my sisters and I across the country, staying at fabulous historic hotels in the cities, a cabin on the edge of the Grand Canyon, motels across mid-west America, and at most of the national parks. We even got stuck in Vancouver, British Columbia at the Empress hotel when the ferries went on strike (no complaints!). But we made it home in one piece, with a lifetime of memories made in that one summer, eventful indeed… as a few days after we returned, the fire department came to extinguish our Buick that blew up in our driveway.
Susan admired a good conversationalist and appreciated interesting people. She was a lover of fashion, good perfume and bold jewelry. Music was the foundation of her entire life, but she also loved art, dance, books, wine and was a real foodie with discerning taste. We would easily drive hours to try a well-reviewed restaurant. She often said there was nothing better than a restaurant with good food, service and atmosphere. She especially appreciated a well-made sidecar and handsome, chatty waiters! She liked some sports and could be found watching college basketball and occasional Patriots games, but her favorite was figure skating competitions. I credit her for my love of art, music, literature, film, dance, nature, good food, back roads, antique shows, craft fairs, comfy fuzzy things, country stores and Christmas everything!
In her later years, she followed politics daily, and was passionate about her liberalism, support of racial, gender and wage equality, and strongly supported gay rights and marriage, as well as local law enforcement. As upsetting as it was to see what the world had become in many ways, she was so happy to see the new administration at the White House before she passed, and hoped for a better, and less violent future for us all.
Although she traveled all through the U.S. and Europe, her favorite place was always home. Her favorite activity was sharing a great meal at some fabulous restaurant with her family and friends, or to be at home with them playing a game, talking and laughing for hours. Her greatest loves were her family, her cat Bianca, and music.
Beloved by all, forever missed. Susan F. Clickner was truly a remarkable woman, loved her family deeply, and lived a full life!
There will be no service. Contributions can be made by way of supporting the arts in your communities, and voting to protect education, health care, gay rights, and racial equality. Live your best life!
By Arthur O’Shaughnessy from Music and Moonlight
We are the music makers,
And we are the dreamers of dreams,
Wandering by lone sea-breakers,
And sitting by desolate streams; —
World-losers and world-forsakers,
On whom the pale moon gleams:
Yet we are the movers and shakers
Of the world for ever, it seems.
With wonderful deathless ditties
We build up the world’s great cities,
And out of a fabulous story
We fashion an empire’s glory:
One man with a dream, at pleasure,
Shall go forth and conquer a crown;
And three with a new song’s measure
Can trample a kingdom down.
We, in the ages lying,
In the buried past of the earth,
Built Nineveh with our sighing,
And Babel itself in our mirth;
And o’erthrew them with prophesying
To the old of the new world’s worth;
For each age is a dream that is dying,
Or one that is coming to birth.
A breath of our inspiration
Is the life of each generation;
A wondrous thing of our dreaming
Unearthly, impossible seeming —
The soldier, the king, and the peasant
Are working together in one,
Till our dream shall become their present,
And their work in the world be done.
They had no vision amazing
Of the goodly house they are raising;
They had no divine foreshowing
Of the land to which they are going:
But on one man’s soul it hath broken,
A light that doth not depart;
And his look, or a word he hath spoken,
Wrought flame in another man’s heart.
And therefore to-day is thrilling
With a past day’s late fulfilling;
And the multitudes are enlisted
In the faith that their fathers resisted,
And, scorning the dream of to-morrow,
Are bringing to pass, as they may,
In the world, for its joy or its sorrow,
The dream that was scorned yesterday.
But we, with our dreaming and singing,
Ceaseless and sorrowless we!
The glory about us clinging
Of the glorious futures we see,
Our souls with high music ringing:
O men! it must ever be
That we dwell, in our dreaming and singing,
A little apart from ye.
For we are afar with the dawning
And the suns that are not yet high,
And out of the infinite morning
Intrepid you hear us cry —
How, spite of your human scorning,
Once more God’s future draws nigh,
And already goes forth the warning
That ye of the past must die.
Great hail! we cry to the comers
From the dazzling unknown shore;
Bring us hither your sun and your summers;
And renew our world as of yore;
You shall teach us your song’s new numbers,
And things that we dreamed not before:
Yea, in spite of a dreamer who slumbers,
And a singer who sings no more.