When Mary Woodmansee Green first started with Hilton Head Symphony Orchestra in 1998, a board member told her her job wasn't just to conduct. She should become ingrained in the community, to the point where people would recognize her in the grocery store.
People still stop her to chat when she shops, even though Green is no longer with the symphony. Her contract wasn't renewed at the end of last season, causing an uproar among her supporters. But Green has decided to keep roots locally. She feels too much of a connection to the Lowcountry.
The Mary Green Chorale performs at 8 p.m. Saturday at All Saints Episcopal Church on Hilton Head Island. The concert is a fundraiser for National Alliance on Mental Illness.
"I feel like I've been blessed with so many riches by living and working here," Green said, who lives part-time on the island with her husband, Howard. "I wanted this to be a benefit."
The concert came about as a way to give back to a community that had come to support her through good and bad times personally. Her departure from the symphony surprised many. The board decided to cut ties with Green, citing a desire for a more diverse slate of programming and new ideas to expand its audience.
Green at the time said she was shocked by the decision and felt she had been treated unprofessionally. In response, an outcry came from Green supporters who formed a group that campaigned to reverse the decision.
"The reaction was so supportive," she said. "It really became a positive thing for me."
She'll continue to split time between the island and Pennsylvania, where she has conducted the Kennett Symphony of Chester County for 24 years. She recently conducted the Louisiana Symphony in early February and hopes for more guest conducting gigs.
A lifelong vocalist, she'll also continue with her Mary Green Singers in their 26th year. She also plans more speaking engagements, like the one she recently gave about being a maestra in the largely male-dominated world of symphony conductors.
She organized the chorale concert locally in a matter of months, pulling together 36 local singers including well-known vocalists Laura Sutten Floyd, Alan Lathan, Richard Johnson and Thomas Vasil. The next day they'll perform the Ariel Ramirez piece "Misa Criolla" at St. Gregory the Great church in Bluffton.
Green's future is still a bit up in the air, but she plans on more events similar to the concert, small ways she can stay connected with the community.
"I'm still thinking about what I want to do," she said. "I'm thinking about how I can give back."