Mary Sugar has a very diverse background, encompassing theatre, pop, jazz, and church music. She spent 11
years as a music director, pianist, and teacher in New York City, where she worked on and off-Broadway, at
Lincoln Center, and in many other venues. She went around the world as conductor/pianist for Leslie Uggams,
and played a concert-tour in Italy with Amanda McBroom & George Ball. Mary has worked with Vanessa
Williams, Jennifer Holliday, Clay Aiken, Connie Francis, James Naughton, Larry Gatlin, Charles Strouse, John
Kander & Fred Ebb, Sheldon Harnick, Harvey Schmidt & Tom Jones, Debbie Allen, David Friedman, Craig
Carnelia, Marni Nixon, Geraldine Fitzgerald, Barbara Cook, Lonny Price, Shirley Jones, Martin Vidnovic,
Sandy Duncan, Bruce Vilanche, The Diamonds, Lillias White, Adrian Zmed, Charo, Suzanne Kiechle, Cathy
Rigby, The Irish Tenors, and many, many others.
Mary has taught at New York University, Mannes College of Music, Fordham University, Pace University,
Musical Theater Works Conservatory, Syracuse University, SUNY Cortland, Colgate University, Circle in the
Square Conservatory, Montgomery College and many other places; teaching classes in musical theater
performance, scene study, and audition technique.
Mary also played keyboards for the national tours of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, The Full Monty,
Hairspray, Mamma Mia, The King and I, The Producers, Peter Pan, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor
Dreamcoat, Sweet Charity, Annie, Monty Python’s Spamalot, The Music of Andrew Lloyd Webber, The Sound
of Music, Cinderella, and Elton John’s Aida.
Mary recently spent 7 years in the Washington, D.C. area, where she worked for The Kennedy Center for the
Performing Arts, Arena Stage, Signature Theatre, Ford’s Theatre, Studio Theatre, the D.C. Cabaret Network,
Washington Savoyards, American Century Theater, and other venues. She also played for The Kennedy
Center’s productions of Broadway: Three Generations and The Music of Andrew Lloyd Webber, Studio
Theatre’s production of Adding Machine, and Arena Stage’s production of Oklahoma, as well as The National
Theatre’s pre-Broadway production of If/Then, starring Idina Menzel & Anthony Rapp.
She is also an orchestral pianist, having spent 9 years as principal Pops pianist with the Syracuse Symphony
Orchestra, as well as playing for The Utica and Binghamton Symphony Orchestras, Symphoria, and The
Kennedy Center Opera House Orchestra.
Mary has been a Music Minister and Church Musician for 46 years, playing organ and piano at churches in
Central New York, New York City, Maryland, Virginia, Washington, D.C., and Pennsylvania. She uses her
background in Musical Theatre to enhance worship services and to write, direct, produce, and conduct liturgical
dramas using contemporary music to get across a timeless message.
With Jennifer Holliday
Mary playing for Nick Ziobro and Julia Goodwin
I have been a musician since I was three years old, and reached professional status by the time I was five.
I grew up in Syracuse, N.Y. At my third birthday party, my godmother bought me a little chord organ. I went to the radio, heard "Bill Bailey", went back to the organ, played the song, and the party stopped. My parents looked at each other, said "do that again", I did, and my party started. The next day, we bought my first console organ, and I started taking lessons. When I was five, I was featured in a concert by Bob Ralston of the Lawrence Welk show, and I was hooked.
All through my school years, I continued, taking lessons rom the famous silent movie organist Carlton James, adding clarinet, bass clarinet, bassoon, and piano by age 10. I became the organist at a local church when I was 12, and pianist in a local dance band when I was 13. Along the way I was privileged to attend master classes with some wonderful musicians like Chuck Mangione, Gap Mangione, and Darius Brubeck.
I received a degree in piano performance, and then decided that if I wanted to be a music director, I needed to learn how to act, sing and dance, so I went on to receive a BFA in Musical Theater from Syracuse University, under such wonderful teachers as Brent Wagner, Arthur Storch and Richard Fancy.
Three months after I graduated, I moved to New York City, and three days later was rehearsal accompanist and assistant musical director for my first off-Broadway show. Broadway itself came four months later.
As a freelance musician in NYC, I was privileged to work with many wonderful people, going around the world with Leslie Uggams, playing country music with Larry Gatlin, and so many others. I also became a teacher and vocal coach.
When I returned to Syracuse in 1996, I was the pianist for many Pops concerts with the Syracuse Symphomy Orchestra, as well as The Irish Tenors, Connie Francis, and many national touring shows. I've also worked extensively at Syracuse Stage, The Landmark Theatre, and many other local venues.
I moved to Washington, DC, in 2007, where I worked at The John F. Kennedy Center For The Performing Arts, The National Theatre, Ford's Theatre, Signature Theatre, Arena Stage, Studio Theatre, and many other venues. I also performed as Musical Director/Conductor and Pianist for Amanda McBroom (composer of The Rose) on a three-week concert-tour of Tuscany.
I continue to perform and work around the world as a freelance pianist, music director, organist, vocal coach, and teacher.
I help students find the heart of a song; the character, what the character needs to express, why, how they're going to do it, the obstacles, and so on. We dig deeply into motivation, methods, etc. to help the actor relate to the song with integrity and feeling.
I coach students for college auditions and for auditions for specific shows. I teach audition technique, how to take direction at an audition, and how to pick material. I specialize in rarely-done material specific to the actor and the role being auditioned for, arranging and transposing it if necessary to fit the actor's voice and needs.
I help students prepare a large book of unique audition songs in their keys, specific to them, for all purposes. I arrange them in everything from 8-bar excerpts to full songs, so that they are fully prepared for any audition situation they might walk into.
Not everyone can sing a music in the original keys. I can transpose to any key on sight while playing for the convenience of the auditioners and performers, and also write out the music in the needed key so that it can be played by others.