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ACSO Annual Festivals Guide: Music Festivals Return to Live Performance in California and Nevada

Festival season has returned in 2021! As vaccination rates continue to climb and COVID cases continue to fall, our festival members are getting back to work producing safe live events in beautiful places. From June into the fall months, the western United States is once again alive with festivals. Artists from all over the world are coming back to picturesque California and Nevada communities to experience a unique blend of music-making, camaraderie, and fun. The Association of California Symphony Orchestras (ACSO) is pleased to announce this summer's live offerings from our festival members, highlighting a vital and vibrant way for artists and audiences alike to deeply engage in classical music.

No two are exactly alike, yet each share one common thread: a love and respect for composers, musicians, and the communities in which they are rooted. There are many opportunities to experience world-class performances and connect with the artists who bring these great works of art to life.

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NEA Announces $136,000 in Grants to ACSO and 8 ACSO Members

For its second major grant announcement of fiscal year 2021, the National Endowment for the Arts announces more than $88 million in recommended grants to organizations in all 50 states and jurisdictions. Grants to organizations in three funding categories are included in this round: Grants for Arts Projects, Our Town, and State and Regional Partnerships. Eight organizational members of the Association of California Symphony Orchestras (ACSO), as well as ACSO itself, have been awarded funds totaling $136,000 (see below). For the full announcement from the NEA, please click here.

“As the country and the arts sector begin to imagine returning to a post-pandemic world, the National Endowment for the Arts is proud to announce funding that will help arts organizations reengage fully with partners and audiences,” said NEA Acting Chairman Ann Eilers. “While the arts, whether through books, movies, or online performances and programs, have been a sustaining force for many throughout the pandemic, the chance to gather with one another and share arts experiences is its own necessity and pleasure.” 

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Up and Down the Scale: January through April 2021

We are excited to share the latest developments and changes in the professional lives of our members. This edition covers announcements made January through April 2021. If you want to share the administrative, board, or staff member happenings at your organization, send announcements to [email protected].

The American Youth Symphony has pledged that 50 percent or more of new music performed by the orchestra will be the work of female composers.

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Lead By Example: A Call for ACSO Board Candidates

If you are a member of ACSO (as an individual or as part of your organization's membership), this is a call for you to directly participate in shaping the field by serving on ACSO’s Board of Directors.

ACSO looks to broaden our board representation by inviting new prospects who reflect our diverse and robust member network. We want to uncover passionate individuals at all career levels who could lend their talents, expertise, and unique viewpoints to ACSO’s Board over the next few years.

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ACSO Members Receive $265,000 in February 2021 NEA Grants

The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) announced $27.5 million in grants as part of its first major funding announcement for fiscal year 2021.

“Grants from the NEA support ACSO's vision of a California classical music landscape that is vibrant, healthy, diverse, and connected to the communities it serves. Especially in challenging times, the NEA is truly the lifeblood of the arts in our country,” said ACSO Executive Director Sarah Weber.

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Up and Down the Scale: October 2020 through January 2021

We are excited to share some of the latest developments and changes in the professional lives of our members. This edition covers announcements made October 2020 through January 2021. If you want to share the administrative, board, or staff member happenings at your organization, send announcements or press releases to [email protected]

Brynn Albanese stepped down as the Concertmaster of the San Luis Obispo Symphony. Associate Concertmaster Emily Lanzone will replace her in the role.

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Leading During Uncertain Times: Words of Wisdom from ACSO's 2020 Award Winners

This past September, the Association of California Symphony Orchestras (ACSO) announced the 2020 winners of the inaugural Executive Leadership Award, the inaugural Emerging Professional Award, the fourth Kris Sinclair Leadership Award, and the 24th Most Valuable Player (MVP) Volunteer Awards.

As a turbulent year comes to a close, and as we are still navigating the challenges brought on by a global pandemic and engaging in social and cultural changes to promote equity in our field, we asked our award winners to reflect on and answer the question: How do you lead during uncertain times?

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#RestartArtsCA Awareness Campaign Toolkit Now Available for Download

We are pleased to announce that the toolkit for the Statewide Arts Awareness Campaign - #RestartArtsCA - taking place the week of December 7, is now live and available for you to download here.

This toolkit contains sample press release, talking points, social media posts and graphics for you to use for the first phase of the #RestartArtsCA campaign, which is focused on storytelling and data as a means to drive home the necessity of obtaining state guidelines to reopen the arts and culture sector. Please share the content you see in this toolkit with your networks on social media channels, and feel free to adapt it to your particular voice, to spread awareness about the #ReStartArtsCA campaign.

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Thank You to Our 2019/20 Donors!

This is the season when we take time to pause, reflect, and give thanks. And here at ACSO we are thankful for our generous funders, sponsors, and donors who have supported us during an extraordinary and turbulent year.

Thank you to all these wonderful individuals and organizations that have donated to and supported ACSO’s mission and programs.* Your generosity has allowed us to do our work to provide leadership and resources to classical music advocates and organizations.

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ACSO Celebrates October as National Arts & Humanities Month & Invites Members to Post Their Virtual Events

ACSO joins thousands of arts organizations and communities across the nation to recognize October as National Arts and Humanities Month (NAHM). NAHM is coordinated by Americans for the Arts, the national organization working to empower communities with the resources and support necessary to provide access to all of the arts for all of the people. It is a coast-to-coast collective recognition of the importance of art and culture in America during the month of October, and was launched more than 30 years ago as National Arts Week in honor of the twentieth anniversary of the National Endowment for the Arts. In 1993, it was reestablished by Americans for the Arts and national arts partners as a month-long celebration with goals of:

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ACSO Announces 2020 Award Recipients

The Association of California Symphony Orchestras (ACSO) is pleased to announce the winners of the inaugural Executive Leadership Award, the inaugural Emerging Professional Awards, the fourth Kris Sinclair Leadership Award, and the 24th Most Valuable Player (MVP) Volunteer Awards. ACSO’s annual awards program recognizes remarkable individuals and organizations within ACSO’s membership network for their meaningful contributions to the orchestra field. 

Kris Sinclair Leadership Award: Auburn Symphony
Executive Leadership Award: Stephen Wilson, President & CEO, Fresno Philharmonic
Emerging Professional Award: Tara Aesquivel, Executive Director, American Youth Symphony
Emerging Professional Award: Connor Bogenreif, Manager of Operations & Education, Long Beach Symphony
MVP Volunteer Award: Dr. Jay Fiene, Board of Directors, San Bernardino Symphony Orchestra
MVP Volunteer Award: Mary Ann Orr, Board of Directors and League Member, Santa Cruz Symphony

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New ACSO Leadership Elected for 2020/21

At ACSO's Annual Meeting held at the 2020 Annual Conference Online on August 14, ACSO members elected five new board members and re-elected two renewing board members, welcomed new officers for 2020/21, and said farewell and thank you to several outgoing board members.

BOARD Officers for 2020/2021

Alice Sauro, President
Executive Director
Sacramento Philharmonic & Opera

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NEA Awards CARES Act Grants to 10 ACSO Member Orchestras

On July 1, the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) announced federal grants of $50,000 each to support personnel and facilities costs for 63 orchestras nationwide, including 10 orchestras in the ACSO membership network, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Congress designated $75 million of funding for the NEA to administer within the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, signed into law on March 27, 2020.

The Endowment's grant announcement describes the broad distribution of awards among small, medium, and large organizations, and across locations that are urban, rural, and in-between. Out of more than 3,100 eligible applications, available funding supports 855 grants. "All of us at the National Endowment for the Arts are keenly aware that arts organizations across the country are hurting, struggling, and trying to survive and that our supply of funding does not come close to meeting the demand for assistance," said Arts Endowment Chairman Mary Anne Carter. "That said, I am enormously proud of the over-and-above efforts of the Arts Endowment staff to swiftly and professionally manage such a large amount of additional work in a relatively short period of time on behalf of the American public."

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Our Values and Commitment

At ACSO, we stand for equity and inclusion and against racism and injustice. We value the lives of the Black community, including the musicians, board and staff members, donors and supporters, and audiences within our membership network.

We value our members' ongoing work to bring music into the world that uplifts, unites, heals, and liberates. One such example is this incredible 130-member virtual performance by the Oakland Symphony of the classic Bill Withers song “Lean on Me.”

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NEA Awards $70,000 in Grants to ACSO and 4 ACSO Members

The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) announced over $84 million through 1,144 grants nationwide in the second round of its regular grant-making in fiscal year 2020.

Four ACSO organizational members as well as ACSO itself were awarded grants in the Art Works category, the NEA’s largest funding category that supports projects in 13 artistic disciplines and fields ranging from arts education to visual arts to music.

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Enjoy and Learn From These Exciting Virtual Programs

During this period of stay-at-home, ACSO's organizational members have been creating inspiring and entertaining content. In just a few months, many creative and unique virtual programs have taken shape. Our members are making sure that classical music is thriving and available for their communities even when live performance is put on pause. ACSO's own Ben Kutner and Anthony Crespo have put together our first Virtual Content Roundup - a showcase of just some of the exciting virtual content created by our members. Watch, learn, and explore these digital offerings - and maybe even get a few ideas for your own virtual programs!

1. Facebook Live Conductor and Artist Interview - Las Vegas Philharmonic & California Symphony
Donato Cabrera, Music Director of the California Symphony and Las Vegas Philharmonic, hosts a weekly Facebook Live series titled “MusicWise – Conversations about Arts & Culture with Donato Cabrera.” He hosts interviews with engaged artists and civic leaders who influence and shape our cultural landscape, discussing their career and background, showcasing their favorite performances and recordings, and asking questions from the Facebook Live audience. Check out this MusicWise episode with violist Gerhard Marschner. 

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ACSO and 25 of Our Members Receive Over $500,000 in California Arts Council Grants

The California Arts Council has invested a record $30 million in arts funding for 2019/2020, and it will fund more than 1,500 grants in support of strengthening California’s arts sector. Awarded project designs span the whole of the arts and cultural fields, with funding offered in 15 unique grant program areas. See the full announcement here.

ACSO and 25 of its members have received grants in six categories totaling more than $500,000 for their incredible projects. See the grant category and award amount breakout below. Congratulations to American Youth Symphony, Berkeley Symphony Orchestra, California Chamber Orchestra, California Symphony Orchestra, Colburn School, Fresno Philharmonic, Long Beach Symphony, Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, Los Angeles Philharmonic, Los Angeles Youth Orchestra, Mill Valley Philharmonic, Music in the Mountains, Napa Valley Youth Symphony, Orchestra Collective of Orange County, Pacific Symphony, Pasadena Symphony, Redlands Symphony, Sacramento Master Singers, San Bernardino Symphony, San Diego Symphony Orchestra, San Francisco Symphony, Santa Barbara Symphony, Santa Rosa Symphony, Vallejo Symphony, and Youth Orchestras of Fresno!

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Message from Sarah Weber, ACSO Executive Director: What We Do For Each Other

The past two weeks have likely been some of the most challenging of our personal and professional lives. Everything that we knew for certain became uncertain. Every activity we engaged in stopped. The people we saw every day are now distant. And live performance of orchestral and classical music has ceased indefinitely.

But even under these circumstances, none of you have given up. Even though every orchestra and ensemble in our membership network has had to cancel or postpone concerts, education programs, and fundraising galas, you have not quit.

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Coronavirus Resources

The ACSO board and staff send support and sympathy to all our members who have cancelled or postponed concerts and other programming. As COVID-19 continues to spread, orchestras and musicians are anticipating financial loss. We join the League of America Orchestras in urging our members to tell Congress that orchestras and musicians need access to federal COVID-19 economic relief! 

March 14, 2020: Paid Leave Provisions Included in Bipartisan Federal COVID-19 Relief Package

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ACSO Welcomes a New Member to the Team

We are thrilled to welcome Ben Kutner as our new Membership and Development Manager.
Ben has a background in classical music administration and music composition. Originally from New York, he founded the New Parnassus Ensemble there and served as its artistic director and chief administrator. His own music has been performed across the U.S. and he has written about classical music for various publications.
Ben said, "Since moving to California, I've found the classical music scene to be open to new approaches, committed to contemporary music, and dedicated to increasing the diversity in our field. It's exciting to be here."