Lowcountry Classic: Gloria Daly

Music of Her Life

There are smiles...and then there are electric smiles! All smiles are delightful, preferred and welcomed, yet a few scatter light on dim pathways, causing them to glow. With her radiant smile, accompanied by her relentless energy, Glory Daly chartered deep channels in the Hilton Head Island arts world. She always marched to a rapid beat, yet waltzed grandly into the community in 1982, exhibiting all the rhythms of her talents.

Gloria played the saxophone and piano in high school, was "musically inspired by her glee club participation and her mom, who was a drama coach." With a degree in radio/television broadcasting and journalism from Ohio State, Gloria sprung from her London, Ohio home in 1956 and dove head first into her dream city, New York.

"My parents had a fit! Each time I returned home, having refused secretarial offers, I'd hear of another job," said Gloria. "My Dad would say it was my last interview in that city! I was thrilled when I landed the position of special events director for the National Council of Churches, but was quickly faced with a roadblock."

While playing tennis, Gloria broke her ankle.the second day on her new job. "It was miserable getting around on crutches! I was so afraid of being fired, and caught a cab until I could no longer afford it. My parents never knew," she grinned. "I was determined to get to work somehow and could not have done it without my friends."

Gloria was not fired and thrust her energies into booking authors, musical groups, and well-known personalities, such as Martin Luther King, on popular television shows. Her experiences and the fascinating personalities with whom she worked remain dear to her heart.

Through a college friend, she met and married Clark Daly in 1958, and they moved to Princeton where their three children, Jeff, Chris and Sarah were born. Later they relocated to Richmond, Virginia, and Gloria traveled the state working as scheduler on a Lt. Governor's campaign. She became executor director of an advocacy group, "Bravo Arts. "In 1974, friends told us about a little island called Hilton Head, so we visited and stayed in the William Hilton Inn," she said. "We loved it from the beginning, and as many, dreamed about some day making it our home!"

Fortune brought the Dalys to Hilton Head in 1982, and Gloria transferred her performing arts vision to "the little island." She immediately became active in the Hilton Head Arts Institute, and was director of sales and marketing for the Hilton Head Playhouse for five years. She formed the Daly Group, a specialty events business, handling weddings, parties and Family Circle (tennis) activities. As director of special events for the Cultural Council, forerunner to the Arts Center of Coastal Carolina, Gloria shared her enthusiasm with everyone. Upon its completion, she was named special events coordinator and was there when she received a call from Willis Shay, asking her to join the Hilton Head Orchestra as general manager.

"I jumped into the planning for the Eastman Festival with lots of work remaining! It was sort of a test for the organization and me to see how we fit," recalled Gloria. Accustomed to following her heart in many of the arts, Gloria found it stressful to divide her loyalty and soon realized it rested solidly with the orchestra. She left the Arts Center and threw all her energy and talent into developing the small chamber orchestra and positioning it in the community. Through her efforts as general manager, 1991-1996, executive director 1996-2005, and now program director, Gloria cradled the Hilton Head Symphony Orchestra in her arms, providing it not only a firm seat in the area arts world, but a steadfast embrace from the hearts of residents and visitors.

Her creativity and generous persuasion hit their height when she proved to be the major catalyst in one of the island's premier events, "Symphony Under the Stars." After the Family Circle Cup tournament in 1995, Gloria convinced its executives to lend the tent for a concert. Filled with candlelight, scrumptious aromas and excitement, the tent became a coveted spot in Harbour Town, where the air basked in melodious bliss. The two-evening event is an annual favorite, as patrons compete under the large town-owned tent in Shelter Cove for prizes (awarded for best table dÈcor) and often don appropriate attire in keeping with the theme and spirit of the music.

Somehow, between all her jobs, ingratiating the orchestra to the business and professional community and planning their special events, Gloria has managed to become an elder in the First Presbyterian Church, head up the United Way residential campaign, serve on the orchestra and Hope Haven boards and assist the rape crisis center in their fund raising and public awareness drives. "The Beaufort County statistics would appall you; it is so prevalent in the Lowcountry," she exclaimed.

In addition, her active membership on the orchestra's outreach and education committee has challenged her to visit schools and head up programs and ceremonies. If something needs to be done, Gloria makes it happen. Yet she transfers the credit. "There are great riches and community spirit for a community of this size, and I am overwhelmed by the give-back mentality of island residents," she said.

On occasion, Gloria returned to her beloved tennis for relaxation, but not often enough to protect her from four-way bypass surgery, from which she made a miraculous recovery in record time. She strives to spend time with her children who are scattered, and all of whom she is extremely proud. "I recently experienced a milestone with one of my six grandchildren," Gloria explained teary-eyed. "I was able to be in Richmond for the high school graduation of my granddaughter, Mary Lapsley, who has endured MS since she was two. Her amazing speech made all of us so very proud of her."

Margaret Greer, author of Making Music, The First 25 Years of the Hilton Head Symphony Orchestra and International Piano Competition Director, Valerie Curry credit Gloria for her strong, steadfast dedication towards the orchestra's success. "I don't think many know, there were times when Gloria single-handedly ran that orchestra," recalled Valerie. The orchestra is now thriving under the direction of Mary Woodmansee Green, and the programs are phenomenal.

Among Gloria's wishes are a trip to Scotland to experience her heritage. "I hope to visit the Hume Castle, part of our ancestry. I am determined to work as long as possible and be sure everyone experiences the joy of our wonderful orchestra, the pride of our community." As the Eiffel Tower is to Paris, the candy striped Harbor Town Lighthouse is to Hilton Head Island, so is Gloria Daly to the Hilton Head Symphony Orchestra. Is there any doubt it is the music of her life?