Elevation of Expression


The fifth annual Crescendo Celebration of Arts & Culture, presented by Hilton Head’s Office of Cultural Affairs, runs from Oct. 10 through Nov. 13. 

It’s the Lowcountry’s month-long showcase of talent, including musicians, storytellers and open art galleries. 

Crescendo will feature Grammy award-winning vocalists, Broadway performers, Latin American jazz masters, violin concertos, and local beloved talent in pop, blues, swing and the American songbook. 

Local Gullah history will be recounted through storytelling. 

With more than 100 scheduled events there’s plenty to do and to organize. 

Enter director Jenn McEwen. 

“The community is the best part of bringing Crescendo to the Lowcountry,” says McEwen, who joined the Cultural Affairs office in 2017. “How fun is it that my job is making sure there is more art, in more places?” 

Ensuring this creative initiative is successful requires a tenacious work ethic. First-hand experience in performance art is also valuable, and McEwen knows well what it takes to usher in a crowd. She holds an undergraduate degree in music and classical voice from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, and a master’s in arts administration from the University of New Orleans. 


Earning the rightful reputation for “selling out a house,” McEwen worked more than nine years with Kenny Leon’s True Colors Theater Company in Atlanta, promoting, educating and providing a strong financial bottom line. 

Today, 11 dedicated artists representing various organizations, volunteer year-round with McEwen to make Crescendo a success. This council of artistic peers, community activists and diverse citizens meet at the start of each month, immediately following the close of the previous year’s celebration to begin again. Three months prior to the kickoff of the upcoming season, the committee moves to biweekly sessions. 

She is complimentary of the collaborative dedication to assisting committee members to work together to recruit sponsorships, plan programming, and craft a marketing plan. 

“These individuals’ mission is rooted in gathering people,” she says. “Our community is so generous with their time, especially when they’re also passionate about the arts.” 

The year of planning it requires to present a strong event schedule is comprised of identifying signature events and setting dates, followed by determining production logistics and marketing initiatives. 

“This year both the National Endowment for the Arts and South Arts provided grants supporting production costs of the Hilton Head Lantern Parade,” says McEwen. 


T-Mobile’s grant will back the closing night’s Lantern Parade. Community members construct lanterns in advance to be part of the town’s largest and most enchanting temporary public art displays on the island. 

“The Hilton Head Island-Bluffton Chamber of Commerce is also a great partner,” says McEwen. 

The Arts Center of Coastal Carolina, Coastal Discovery Museum and Hilton Head Symphony Orchestra plan their performances and exhibits approximately 18 to 24 months in advance, according to McEwen. 

Musicians and artists for the Lantern parade are typically reserved in the same time-frame. 

“It’s getting to put worthy organizations on display and up on a pedestal to show all their good work,” says McEwen. 

McEwen stresses collaboration across the arts and cultural community is imperative to successfully present Crescendo and similar creative endeavors throughout the region. Under her guided ingenuity, she can put worthy organizations on display to show their good work. 

“We are being as responsible as possible, so we can still create and bring the community together,” says McEwen of recognizing COVID risks, with many events being held outdoors. 

Volunteer support is always appreciated. 

“We could not make these events happen without many, many volunteers,” she says. “Volunteers make the cultural world go ‘round.” 

For more on Crescendo, visit culturehhi.org