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Guest Blog Series: Community and Continuance for Small Budget Orchestras by Donald Marshall

Note from ACSO: Our membership network is full of incredible people with a wealth of life experiences, talents, and diverse perspectives and backgrounds. We want to share their insights, points of view, and wisdom with all of you, as well as raise the voices of individuals who are making a difference for the classical music field. Our guest blog series features people from different communities throughout California and the western region, from different sizes and types of classical music organizations, and with different jobs and responsibilities. They will share what they have learned, express their opinions about the sector, and ask challenging questions that will help us shift our thinking and be better advocates for this art form that we all love.
   
Community and Continuance for Small Budget Orchestras
Donald Marshall, President, Downey Symphonic Society   

One of ACSO’s many admirable features is the support it gives small budget orchestras (SBOs) like mine, the Downey Symphony Orchestra (DSO). To an extent, all orchestras share the same challenges and opportunities, though on different scales and with different resources. But SBOs have to be especially close to the communities that they serve and that sustain them.  


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Guest Blog Series: So…What Exactly is a Youth Orchestra? by Cheryl Marvin

Note from ACSO: Our membership network is full of incredible people with a wealth of life experiences, talents, and diverse perspectives and backgrounds. We want to share their insights, points of view, and wisdom with all of you, as well as raise the voices of individuals who are making a difference for the classical music field. Our guest blog series features people from different communities throughout California and the western region, from different sizes and types of classical music organizations, and with different jobs and responsibilities. They will share what they have learned, express their opinions about the sector, and ask challenging questions that will help us shift our thinking and be better advocates for this art form that we all love.
   
So…What Exactly is a Youth Orchestra?
Cheryl Marvin, Executive Director, Conejo Valley Youth Orchestra    

People often assume they know what a youth orchestra is simply by the words “youth orchestra." While “youth orchestra” or “youth symphony” may seem self-explanatory, misunderstandings even among the musically inclined are surprisingly common.
   
It is often assumed that a youth orchestra is synonymous with a local school orchestra, but a youth orchestra is a different animal entirely. To borrow from sports jargon, youth orchestras can be thought of as the “minor league” when compared to professional orchestras, the “major league.” 
    
It is true that youth orchestras work with young musicians, typically ranging from pre-teens or teenagers to those in their mid-20s. However, these musicians are accepted and placed based on their auditions, allowing directors to program music appropriate for the ensemble. 
    
You may be wondering what the primary function of a youth orchestra is. In brief, they provide an opportunity for young musicians to study and perform music at a high level. They also provide homeschooled musicians a place to play with an ensemble. The typical youth orchestra will have multiple ensembles ranging from entry level to a pre-professional level of orchestra. Often, they participate in community outreach and education programs.
   
Youth orchestras also vary between organizations. Some are sponsored by a professional orchestra or a university, while others are stand-alone. Many youth orchestras, like the Conejo Valley Youth Orchestra, have a long and rich history in the community, while others are new to the scene. More established youth orchestras may have over 700 musicians, 12 ensembles, and a staff of 20. By contrast, a newer youth orchestra may only have 30 musicians, one ensemble, and be run by one or two people. In almost all cases, youth orchestras charge tuition and require fundraising to participate. 
   
In addition to size variations, youth orchestras perform at widely differing levels. For example, the American Youth Symphony located in Los Angeles draws musicians, mostly in their 20s, from all over the world. These musicians receive a stipend. Contrast this with a small youth orchestra serving its local community, and it is easy to account for the different performance levels. 
   
Youth orchestras face some of the same challenges that professional orchestras face: concert ticket sales, donor cultivation, board governance, and strong leadership, just to name a few. Perhaps the biggest challenge common to all orchestras is the public perception that classical symphonic music is only for the elite. Many orchestras, whether youth, community, university, or professional, have responded with creative performances and marketing to combat this issue. 
   
Youth orchestras help develop student musicians by giving them an experience modeled after professional orchestras. Musicians earn their place within their orchestra, exercise leadership skills, and, as they advance, have the opportunity to study and perform original literature written by the Masters of classical symphonic music. Not all youth orchestra musicians continue on to study music for their profession. However, youth orchestras serve as a gateway and conduit for serious student musicians to achieve their full potential by giving them the experience they need to be successful in their college and university ensembles. 
   
Let me close by conveying just how fun youth orchestras are to watch! The excitement from the musicians is contagious and the performances are generally excellent. The youthful exuberance and amazing talent on stage gives patrons a glimpse into the future that these budding leaders will usher in. 
   
About the Author: Cheryl Marvin has been with the Conejo Valley Youth Orchestra since 2002 serving as a volunteer, board member, treasurer, and business manager. In 2014 she accepted the position of executive director for the orchestra. In 2003, Cheryl started the first elementary strings program in Moorpark, CA. From there, she expanded the programs to include both the middle and high school levels. In 2012, the Ventura County Arts Council awarded Cheryl the Arts Stars Award for Music Education. Being a musician from a young age, Cheryl has experienced what a profound affect music programs can have on growing musicians. She is passionate about the positive influences the Conejo Valley Youth Orchestra has not only the musicians, but the community as a whole.

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Guest Blog Series: If You Do Only One Thing This Season by Aubrey Bergauer

Note from ACSO: Our membership network is full of incredible people with a wealth of life experiences, talents, and diverse perspectives and backgrounds. We want to share their insights, points of view, and wisdom with all of you, as well as raise the voices of individuals who are making a difference for the classical music field. Our guest blog series features people from different communities throughout California and the western region, from different sizes and types of classical music organizations, and with different jobs and responsibilities. They will share what they have learned, express their opinions about the sector, and ask challenging questions that will help us shift our thinking and be better advocates for this art form that we all love.   


If You Do Only One Thing This Season
Aubrey Bergauer, Independent Consultant
   
I recently had a realization. I was working on an upcoming talk I’m going to be giving, and in one of my dry-runs I rattled off a line about how we need to really get our arts marketing into the 21st century. And then it occurred to me: the 21st century is about to be 20% over.  One fifth of the century is behind us come next year. Is that crazy to you? It is to me. All of a sudden this realization felt so urgent. We can’t keep talking about how to update our marketing practices; rather, it’s imperative that we actually do it, because for a lot of our organizations, we’ve wasted nearly the last twenty years only tweaking how things used to be done, while consumer behavior and marketing trends are passing us by. Sadly for orchestras, most of us have the declining revenue numbers to support this thesis.
   
In a time when there are so many different challenges facing orchestras, if you only do one thing this upcoming season, no matter your budget size, let it be to double down on marketing. I don’t mean update the copy on the copy-filled season brochure (although as an aside, all of our materials would be stronger if we dropped about half the copy and about 99% of the exclamation points…for the love of orchestras, seriously, please stop the forced enthusiasm exclamation points). What I do mean is that now is the time to catch up on what other industries have been doing for the last decade or two. The good news is that we don’t have to reinvent the wheel because we get to emulate what has already proven successful again and again in other sectors, which covers three areas.   





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Guest Blog Series: Don't be Afraid to Break Old Habits by Rei Hotoda

Note from ACSO: Our membership network is full of incredible people with a wealth of life experiences, talents, and diverse perspectives and backgrounds. We want to share their insights, points of view, and wisdom with all of you, as well as raise the voices of individuals who are making a difference for the classical music field. Our guest blog series features people from different communities throughout California and the western region, from different sizes and types of classical music organizations, and with different jobs and responsibilities. They will share what they have learned, express their opinions about the sector, and ask challenging questions that will help us shift our thinking and be better advocates for this art form that we all love.

Don't Be Afraid to Break Old Habits
   
I’m someone who loves a challenge, whether it’s learning to conduct a new work or bench pressing 150 pounds. Yes, me. Just shy of 110 pounds was *challenged* recently by my trainer to do just that. While it was difficult, and didn’t think I could do it, I did. It was quite life affirming and opened a whole new mental and physical avenue for me.
   
Was I afraid? Yes. The thought of pulling something (or worse breaking something) was first and foremost. The thought of doing something that might threaten my career was very real. But, I decided I need to do this, and boy I’m glad I did. Not only did this newness inspire me to hit the gym more, it challenged me to think differently about HOW I go to and experience the gym.
   
You might be thinking, "What on earth does this have to do with anything music related?" A whole lot actually.
   
Oftentimes, we, as musicians, music directors, executive directors, boards, get stuck in a rut. We let our creative muscles atrophy.
   
We—and I count myself in the “we”—are in the habit of repeating our successes, even if they become less successful and stale over time. Season in and season out, presenting and doing the same thing year after year. This is a habit we need to break.
   
Are we challenging ourselves to offer new experiences or seizing different opportunities to connect to our audiences or new audiences in different ways?
   
If we want reach new audiences and stay relevant to our communities, we, as creative organizations and musicians, need to make this a priority. Much like I took on lifting 150-pound weights, we need to have the confidence to lift the giant weight of doing things in more creative and inventive ways.
   
I feel strongly that our arts organizations should serve our communities, and this may mean we need to think and present music differently. Let’s embrace a new “spirit of creativity” that is meaningful to these communities. In my position of Music Director of the Fresno Philharmonic, and as I approach my third season, there is even more momentum to instill this “spirit of creativity” to all that we do. Little by little, program by program.
   
Always thinking creatively and assessing if there is a rut can be exhausting and unnerving. It can be hard to be honest and even harder still to accept what you find. 
   
Think of it this way: Say there is a new restaurant in town, but you always had good food at one that you often frequent. You’re hungry and you want to eat, but the thought of being disappointed at a new place is making you avoid something new. So, instead of going to the new restaurant and having some potentially exciting new food, you go to the same old, same old. Did you eat? Yes. Was it good? Yeah, perhaps, but not exciting. However, would you have found a new place to go to and had a new experience? No. (And, for the record, I would always try the new place; I’m a foodie through and through!)
   
The mark of a good and successful business is its ability to adapt and grow, change and challenge itself. And I firmly believe music is a creative business. As arts leaders, we MUST continue to push our creativity and bring in new ideas!
   
I truly believe that those in artistic leadership roles should be the role models for our musicians, our boards, our audiences. The fear of failure or experiencing something unsuccessful should not be our first thoughts, and truthfully, they often are. We need to stop looking at change as being a disruptive impediment. We must expand our thinking beyond our monetary value and place the lasting impact in our communities squarely in the driver’s seat.
   
Don’t worry, I’m not recommending we throw all caution to the wind. I’m just encouraging you to do something, try something different and challenging. No matter how small All it takes is one step. Like we did in Fresno. One small change had a huge impact!
   
In Fresno, we had a “Meet the Artist Luncheon” series. It was held at the same place and in the same way year after year. While it was attended, the event started to feel stagnant and was not relevant to the dynamic changes that were taking place on stage.
   
So, we decided to try a new approach. Thanks to my awesome staff – Stephen Wilson and Annie Schmidt  we started holding our luncheons in places in the community that were relevant to what was happening on stage. We formed new alliances and partnerships with these spaces and organizations, opening up and expanding our reach and making many new connections. The result has been overwhelmingly positive.
   
We broke the habit of always falling back on what we knew, we challenged our creative muscles, and we had a fabulous work out -- and the rewards have been wonderful!
   
About the Author: Rei Hotoda, the newly appointed Music Director of the Fresno Philharmonic, is rapidly becoming one of America’s most sought after and dynamic artists. She has appeared as a guest conductor with many of today’s leading ensembles, including the Symphony Orchestras of Baltimore, Chicago, Dallas, Edmonton, Jacksonville, Utah, Toronto, and Winnipeg, as well as the Civic Orchestra of Chicago and the St. Louis Symphonies, among others. She most recently made her conducting debuts with the Nashville and Asheville Symphonies. Read more here.

Jack of All Trades, or Master of One? How Musicians Make an Impact as Artists and Administrators

Note from ACSO: The author of this blog, Leslie Schlussel, is ACSO's Summer 2018 Conference and Membership Intern and her internship is supported by a grant from the Los Angeles County Arts Commission. She is entering her senior year at UCLA, majoring in Music Performance with a minor in Music Industry. She aspires to be a professional horn player in a symphony orchestra as well as work in arts administration.

What is my role as a classical musician in today’s world? In what ways can I help protect orchestral music’s integrity and further its efforts to address audiences’ evolving needs and expectations?

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Up and Down the Scale: Spring and Summer 2018

Sharing the latest developments and changes in the professional lives of our members. This edition covers announcements made spring and summer of 2018.

Individuals

The Santa Rosa Symphony has announced four new appointments to its board of directors. They are Marty Behr, Betty Ferris, and Jacki Reinhardt of Santa Rosa, and Andrew Lewis of San Francisco. 

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San Diego Youth Symphony and Conservatory Receives ACSO’s Sinclair Leadership Award

The Association of California Symphony Orchestras (ACSO) announced today that the San Diego Youth Symphony and Conservatory is the recipient of the 2018 Kris Sinclair Leadership Award for its Community Opus Project, a music education program for elementary students.

This award is named after Kris Sinclair who was the executive director of the ACSO for 31 years and is given to an ACSO Organizational Member that demonstrates recent and measurable leadership initiatives by its staff and/or board in one or more of the following areas: finance, governance, staff development, audience development, education, or community engagement.

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Welcome to the 2018 Annual Conference

It is an honor and pleasure to officially welcome you to the 2018 Annual Conference – the first of many events leading up to our 50th Anniversary celebration next year. Look for special programs and activities to take place over the next twelve months as we celebrate this milestone.

We applaud our members from across the state and region for the work you do in your communities, and we are especially grateful that you made the journey to Sacramento to help us kick-off ACSO’s year-long anniversary celebration.

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National Endowment for the Arts Announces $105,000 in Grants to Five ACSO Organizational Members and Awards $15,000 to the Association for its Service to the Field

National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) Chairman Jane Chu has approved more than $80 million in grants as part of the NEA’s second major funding announcement for fiscal year 2018.  Included in this announcement is an Art Works grant of $15,000 to the Association of California Symphony Orchestras (ACSO).

“The variety and quality of these projects speaks to the wealth of creativity and diversity in our country,” said NEA Chairman Jane Chu. “Through the work of organizations such as the Association of California Symphony Orchestras, NEA funding invests in local communities, helping people celebrate the arts wherever they are.”

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ACSO Awarded CAC Statewide and Regional Networks Grant

The California Arts Council announced its plans to award $25,500 to ACSO as part of its Statewide and Regional Networks program. The Statewide and Regional Networks program is rooted in the California Arts Council’s commitment to supporting arts service organizations reflective of California’s diverse populations. The program provides general operating grants for arts service organization networks with regional or statewide reach. Arts service organizations serve as networks to provide specialized, practical services for artists, arts organizations, and cultural communities.

ACSO is one of 43 grantees chosen for the Statewide and Regional Networks program. The award was featured as part of a larger announcement from the California Arts Council.

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