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The idea for this company was born as Founder and Artistic Director Scott Drackley watched his son participate in several Young Artist programs around the U.S. He realized our region lacks educational opportunities of this caliber to offer young aspiring singers. The presence of professional opera is also absent in the region. Addressing those needs is the impetus behind Penn Square Music Festival.

The Festival has two goals:

  • To provide a professional performance and training opportunity for young artists of excellence in a nurturing, supportive atmosphere
  • To bring professional performances of opera and musical theatre to Lancaster audiences and region


The answer is Young Singers. Singing opera is a very demanding profession. Singers must always be at the top of their game: auditioning, constantly studying not only their instrument, but languages, repertoire, acting, dance; and always marketing themselves to future employers.

After graduating, many are good musicians, but at age 25 or so their bodies, and therefore their voices, are not ready for the Metropolitan Opera. It takes time for singers to mature vocally. So, what can these singers do that doesn’t involve a temp job or waiting tables?

Singers need to have a supportive atmosphere to grow professionally and vocally, to make connections, and to receive the encouragement needed to continue in this demanding career.

Penn Square Music Festival is a professional training opportunity for these young artists and a great lyric-theater experience for the region’s audiences.


Our focus is on education through performance. Young artists, singers up to age 35, need an environment where they can make the leap from student to professional. Participants receive opportunities to perform and cover (understudy) appropriate roles in Festival productions and to work with world-class artistic staff.

 In a nurturing environment, our Young Artists are given the opportunity to raise their artistry to the highest possible level, to develop and polish essential stagecraft and performance skills aided by an experienced artistic staff.

 A professional company, where all artists and creative staff are paid. Penn Square Music Festival is not a “pay to sing” program. Rather, we are committed to providing a professional experience for the Artists, one that is not otherwise available within an approximately 200-mile radius.

 Programming at major opera companies around the world now includes classic Musical Theatre. Young Artists need the opportunity to hone their skills in this genre to be more marketable and find employment in a highly competitive field.

 Penn Square Music Festival fills a void by bringing professional Opera and classic Musical Theatre to the Lancaster community and wider region, accompanied by full orchestra as the composers intended.

 Lancaster is “the new Brooklyn” (New York Post, September 2016) Our thriving arts community, from visual to dramatic to musical, is one that also recently inspired the blog post to rank Lancaster as one of the 5 best cities in the country. Professional Opera and Classic Musical Theatre in the heart of this vibrant scene will only add to the attraction.


Young Singers:

Young artists are always in need of places to perform appropriate operatic roles. Penn Square Music Festival will provide a supportive environment where they can perform on a professional stage. But there is a new challenge for them in the 21st century as well.

Musicals like “My Fair Lady”, “South Pacific”, and “Sweeney Todd”, which require legitimately trained voices, are currently being presented by major U.S. opera companies. Consequently, today’s young singers must be ready to perform musical theatre roles as well as traditional operatic roles in order to be more employable. This has created a need for ‘crossover’ experience and the extended training that enables classically trained singers to perform in those productions.

The performers in the Festival will be paid and housed in Lancaster. This will be their full-time job in the rehearsal weeks leading up to the festival. They will also have the opportunity to perform for the community in ways beyond their work in the main-stage productions, something that is also necessary for their career development.

The Community:

Lancaster and the surrounding region deserve a strong professional opera presence to enhance the vibrant and burgeoning arts scene. As artists, our hope is to entertain and to enrich the lives, minds and hearts of our communities and the individuals in them by giving them access to those great composers and writers who, over the decades and centuries, have proven to be among humanity’s most significant thinkers.

On a more practical plane, we hope to attract a new group of people eager to spend their entertainment dollars in the Lancaster area. On average, opera attendees have different values, tastes and economic standing than other tourists. We hope they will help to fill hotels and restaurants and take advantage of Lancaster’s other attractions as well.

On another level, Penn Square Music Festival will be employing talented local musicians, local production personnel and renting local facilities. We intend on hiring around 65% of our employees, primarily the orchestra and production personal, locally. In other words - spending money in Lancaster.


Already a tourist magnet with much to offer, Lancaster is the perfect place for Penn Square Music Festival. The Lancaster Newspaper states: “Consistent annual visitation (is) hovering between 8 million and 10 million people. (That’s a staggering number when you consider that the county’s current total resident population is a mere 5 percent of the estimated annual visitation. That means there are 20 visitors for each resident.)”

The city’s downtown has been revitalized, the visual arts are thriving, theater is alive and well; and with the construction of Clipper Stadium, a new group of people began to visit Lancaster, proving the “if you build it, they will come” theory. There is already an audience base, people who value and support the arts.

A professional summer opera/musical theatre festival fills a need that has not been met in this region. The other closest summer opera festivals are Wolf Trap, in Vienna, Virginia, and the Glimmerglass Music Festival in Cooperstown New York. (by the way – both are also good examples of the “if you build it…” theory: Wolf Trap is built on former farmland outside of Washington, D.C. and Glimmerglass in the open spaces of upstate New York) Both are major players in the training and showcasing of young artists, both draw consistently large opera audiences from distant places and both are more than 100 miles from Lancaster.

Cooperstown, NY, with a population of 1,800 people, is the home of The Glimmerglass Festival. From an article entitled Art is Essential, Not Extra by, General Director Francesca Zambello is quoted: “The Glimmerglass Festival’s $8 million budget plants a $21 million footprint in the region. The Festival has a vital economic and social impact on the region, with 36,000 tickets sold annually to visitors from throughout the United States and 11 foreign countries.”

Opera and musical theatre enthusiasts from Boston, New York City, Philadelphia, New Jersey, Maryland, Delaware, Washington D.C. and beyond would easily consider a short vacation in Lancaster anchored to the Festival. 


Lancaster has available the needed support for a non-profit arts organization.

  • Potential Board Members
  • Potential Donors
  • Arts-Positive Government
  • Audience

Lancaster has the requisite resources already in place to support the production of opera and musical theatre.

  • Personnel
  • Orchestra Musicians
  • Backstage Crew
  • Front of House Staff
  • Rehearsal Staff
  • Facilities
  • Rehearsal
  • Performance
  • Media/Marketing/Advertising

Lancaster is a “Goldilocks” city – it is big enough to support a strong arts community and yet small enough to have its doors open to new ideas and organizations. In other words, it’s “just right”. 

Penn Square Music Festival Board

Jay Butterfield

Don Banzhof

David Miller, Esq.

John Snader

Brian Salldin

Darin Wolfe

Kristin Sims

Kevin Chanko

Phyllis Drackley

Ali Lacabucci

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Enjoy a few articles on how Lancaster is an up-and-coming city!

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