Conference Breakout Sessions

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A Seat at the Table: The Power of Collaborative Programming Models
In the orchestra world, the Music Director sets the artistic agenda, but what happens when other voices are invited into the curatorial decision-making process? In this session, we will explore collaborative programming models that invite new perspectives to the table to help accomplish a variety of goals: engaging new audiences, spurring innovation, expanding the boundaries of the art form, and addressing issues of equity and inclusion in our work. Our panel brings together guests at the forefront of exploring how expanding the curatorial dialogue can strengthen our artistry and our organizations without devolving into “programming by committee.”

  • Scott Harrison, executive director, Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra
  • Maia Jasper (Artist / Curator)

The Art and Science of Pricing: A How-To Guide for Maximizing Earned Revenue Potential
Many orchestras face internal pressure to increase earned revenue each year. How often should you increase prices and by how much? Are your patrons fatigued? Do promotional efforts continue to erode potential gains? How do your audience development goals fit into the equation? This session examines a variety of factors that impact pricing decisions and provides insights on when and how to implement both variable and dynamic pricing. Learn data-driven techniques to measure audience demand, inform pricing decisions, and gain practical solutions to increase ticket revenue results with relative ease.

  • Cindy Grzanowski, vice president, Arts Consulting Group

Audience Development: The Long-Haul Model: A New Paradigm that Solves the Problems of Audience Attrition, Churn, and Aging

Over the last four seasons, after a calculated change in approach to audience development strategy, the California Symphony has dramatically grown its audience and donor base, counter to the trends for orchestras across the country. Called “The Long-Haul Model,” a disciplined focus on patron retention over the long-term has grown audiences by over 70%, increased subscription revenue (also by over 70%), and nearly quadrupled the donor base. Executive Director Aubrey Bergauer will share the details of operational implementation of the model, how the model scales to different budget sizes, why the board should care, and how you can apply this work to serve your organization.

  • Aubrey Bergauer, executive director, California Symphony

Before the Flood (or Fire): Emergency Preparedness Strategies and Resources
From fires and mudslides to active shooter situations and sudden personnel changes, performing arts organizations must deal with events ranging from minor emergencies to large-scale disasters.  These unexpected events may disrupt performances, or pose public relations concerns.  This session will include brief updates from California colleagues who dealt with the 2017 wildfires, and provide information on good practices for emergency preparedness and business continuity.  Performing Arts Readiness Project Director, Tom Clareson, and PAR Performing Arts Coordinator and Executive Director of the National Coalition for Arts’ Preparedness & Emergency Response (NCAPER), Janet Newcomb, will provide up-to-the-minute examples of preparedness and recovery resources and strategies.

  • Tom Clareson, project director, Performing Arts Readiness Project
  • Jamei Haswell, board president, Santa Rosa Symphony
  • Kevin Marvin, executive director, Santa Barbara Symphony
  • Jan Newcomb, performing arts coordinator, Performing Arts Readiness Project

Curating Your Career / Life – What’s next, how do you KNOW?
Are you feeling like you may be at an important crossroads? Or feeling a pulling towards creating a next chapter? Whether you are at the beginning of your career, mid, or late career, there’s lots of excellent career development advice and recruiting resources available to you – and many here at Conference. But how do you know what’s “right” for you? How long do you need to stay in your job? What is the best path to continue to advance and be successful? When is the right time to retire, and what will you do next? The answers? They depend on what YOU (really) want – in terms of impact, living in your purpose, and work-life rhythm. The good news? You’re already moving! Now leverage YOU to have the impact you are meant to achieve. Participants will be led through a series of exercises and mini-coaching to begin revealing your Strategic Trajectory and Impact Vocabulary, test assumptions, breakthrough limiting beliefs, and create deeper insights on the Big Question: What should I do next?

  • Kathryn R Martin, organizational and leadership coach
  • Nicola Samra, executive director, Monterey Symphony

Does Your Orchestra Need a Rebrand? The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Rebranding is more than changing your logo and tagline, it's your association's personality, your promise to your members and your value proposition. A successful rebrand could increase membership, member engagement, and revenue. But how do you know if your a rebrand is right for you? And how do you determine the timing, the level of rebrand needed, get board buy-in, and measure ROI? Using a mx of interactive activities and presentation, get the information needed to help you determine whether your association needs a rebrand, to what extent, how to get buy in, and how to launch and measure your efforts.

  • Donte P. Shannon, CAE, executive director, Specialty Advertising Association of California

Exploring Arts Education

What does arts education mean to you and your orchestra? This session will explore the what, how, and why of providing arts-based experiences and education to young people in educational and community settings. The session will explore different models of excellence and discuss issues such as funding, partnerships, and educational policy.

  • Sunshine Deffner, operations & education director, California Symphony
  • Josy Miller, arts education program specialist, California Arts Council
  • Adrienne Valencia, programs director, Arts for Learning San Diego

From Silence to Sustainability – The Recovery of the Sacramento Philharmonic & Opera
A year after its 2013 merger, the Sacramento Philharmonic & Opera had effectively ceased operations. With no performances scheduled, a depleted staff, and a few funds remaining against a massive debt, an exhausted board was left with answering the toughest question imaginable – is it time to declare bankruptcy and close forever? But the organization made the ambitious decision to continue, and through bold and imaginative focus, it not only recovered financially, but it charted a new artistic course that immersed the organization within its community. Now, just three years since the music returned, the organization has moved from instability to stability, and now to sustainability, while still expanding its artistic commitment to the Sacramento community each year. Attendance and fundraising are at all-time highs. The musicians and staff are highly engaged, and the organization is preparing for its next phase of success. This session serves as the Case Study for the Sac Phil & Opera’s recovery – risks taken, lessons learned, and successes achieved – and a learning opportunity to other organizations challenged with creating a bright, sustainable future.

  • Laurie Nelson, immediate past board chair, Sac Phil & Opera
  • Alice Sauro, executive director, Sac Phil & Opera
  • Bob Swaney, founder & CEO, Robert Swaney Group

How the New Federal Tax Law Impacts Your Orchestra
This session reviews the operational changes nonprofits may need to make right away to comply with the new federal tax law; what orchestra leaders need to know about state and local policy changes as a result of the tax law; and the panelists' perspective on how the new federal tax law will impact fundraising activities of charitable nonprofits.

The Joy of Fundraising
Executive directors and board chairs have limited time and competing priorities that are often times at odds with their fundraising and relationship-developing responsibilities. This session helps identify and overcome those challenges so that the orchestra’s leadership gains a better understanding to define the volunteer, artist and staff roles in fundraising, how to prioritize fundraising and make it an efficient part of the daily routine, and create a high-leverage / high-return fundraising program. This is a fun and interactive session designed for CEOs and board chairs, as well as other leadership staff and board volunteers.

  • Bob Swaney, founder & CEO, Robert Swaney Group

Juggling the 5 Big Ps (Purpose, People, Passion, Politics and Perspective) – Tales from the Frontlines
Things don’t always go exactly as planned. The best nonprofit strategies are sometimes high jacked by the people and passions you thought you understood. This discussion will feature arts management professionals who will tell tales from the frontlines of those occasions when the 5 fundamental “Ps” of a nonprofit administration – Purpose, People, Passion, Politics and Perspective – got out of balance. Learn how the best intentions came tumbling down into a rubble pile of wishful thinking and hard knocks, and the hear about the lessons learned as each faced the 5 Ps once again. This reality-check session will be filled with anecdotal tales of those times when even seasoned professionals’ misstep. Designed to bringing out empathy among colleagues, ultimately the session will reaffirm that by keeping an open mind and the mission of your organization in sight, clashes among the 5 Ps only make us stronger leaders.

  • Bettina Swigger, executive director, Festival Mozaic
  • Scott Vandrick, chief development officer, Pasadena Symphony Association
  • Sarah Weber, membership & development manager, Association of California Symphony Orchestras

Meet the California Arts Council (CAC)
This session provides a broader overview of the types of state resources (money and otherwise) that are relevant to the work of orchestras. CAC staff will provide an overview of the 2019 CAC grant programs and discuss case study/project highlights about projects by orchestras that have successfully been funded by the California Arts Council.

  • Jaren Bonillo, arts program specialist, California Arts Council 

Navigating a Music Director Transition

Has your music director announced their retirement? Are you thinking of replacing your conductor? Music director transitions can be difficult for the organization, musicians, audiences, and the community. Successfully navigating one takes time, organization, and detail. Hear from leaders in the field who have addressed this transition from all different points of the process – from an orchestra who has had their new music director for just a year, an orchestra who just announced their new conductor, and an orchestra’s executive director who inherited the search in her first year. If you foresee a new music director in your new feature, let their experiences reduce some possible pain points in the process.

  • Stephen Wilson, president & CEO, Fresno Philharmonic
  • Alan Silow, president & CEO, Santa Rosa Symphony
  • Catherine Lansdowne, executive director, San Luis Obispo Symphony

Network Like a Star: Turning Casual Contacts into Lifelong Colleagues

Networking is the building block of any profession, but it doesn’t have to be work. Connecting to the people, places and ideas that move your organization and your career forward can be as rewarding as it is fun. Mastering this art, including meeting preparation and participant research, goal setting, active listening and engaged responding can help you build your circle of influence and make good friends. As a bonus, in this session you’ll also come away with expert advice on how to get out of that conversation that’s going nowhere and avoiding that topic you hate that everyone wants to ask you about. Get prepared for your next connecting opportunity by participating in this interactive session of facilitated tip-sharing, engagement exercises and lots of fun. With a background in theater, and a knack for connecting to career gatekeepers, session moderators will lead participants through networking skill-building activities that can be practiced throughout the rest of the ACSO’s annual conference to help build connections and strengthen networks.

  • Scott Vandrick, chief development officer, Pasadena Symphony Association
  • Nicola Samra, executive director, Monterey Symphony
  • John Wineglass, composer, JW Productions, LLC

One Big Thing - Connecting to Your Orchestra’s (existing) Impact to Catapult you to Success!

Is your Board engagement low, are donations flat or declining, is your staff at risk of being burned out, and are opportunities not being leveraged even when operational goals are met and the budget is balanced? This interactive session will show you one big thing that you can do can make a difference – and it won’t cost you anything. Experience KRM’s FastTrack process for visioning/board engagement/strategic planning/branding/revenue-generation...all rolled into one! Bring your colleagues (board, staff, and artistic personnel) and get at your organization’s core purpose, begin to create your Impact Vocabulary, and learn how to create momentum.

  • Kathryn R. Martin, organizational and leadership coach
  • Dean McVay, board president, San Bernardino Symphony

Six Strategies to Exponentially Improve Organizational Performance

No matter how large and successful an organization may be, almost every nonprofit feels it could use more cash to accomplish its work. Here are six strategies that cost little to no money at all, but can produce an overly abundant return on investment. Implementing any of these six strategies can assist a nonprofit in reaching new operational and financial heights. However, incorporating all six into your organization’s daily focus should exponentially increase its sustainability for years to come.

  • Paul Jan Zdunek, Managing Partner & Chief Organizational Strategist, BDO Alliance USA - strategyZ consulting group 

Who’s Sitting in Your Seats? Leveraging Patron Data for Richer Engagement & Audience Development
Most organizations only know one-third of the audience members sitting in their seats. The other two-thirds -- or the non-ticket buyers -- remain a mystery. New in-venue engagement technologies are changing the house map by de-anonymizing audience members and providing a full, 360-degree view of who sits in your seats on any given night. By linking ticket transaction data with on-site patron data – acquired via wifi, social check-ins, pixels and native apps – your venue can employ applications in audience mining, local cross-promotion, and ancillary data monetization that lead to richer patron data, deeper relationships, and more effective marketing opportunities. Three Key Learnings:

  1. Know more than a patron’s zip code – demographic breakdowns combined with social preference and interest data is essential for audience mining and lucrative data-based revenue streams.
  2. Think outside the seat – concessions, parking, Instagram pics… every piece of information helps you learn more about your audience and their preferences.
  3. Sharing is caring: and it pays the bills – Your clients and fellow luxury brands want and need robust data and behavioral information, become your industry’s supplier.
  • Sarah Hutton, director of sales, Choice Entertainment Technologies