ACSO Announces 2022 Awards Recipients

The Association of California Symphony Orchestras (ACSO) is pleased to announce the winners of the 2022 Executive Leadership Award, Emerging Professional Award, and Most Valuable Player (MVP) Volunteer Awards. ACSO’s annual awards program recognizes remarkable individuals within ACSO’s membership network for their meaningful contributions to the orchestra field.

Executive Leadership Award: Jenny Darlington-Person, Executive Director, Music in the Mountains
Emerging Professional Award: Tiffany Fajardo, Patron Services Manager, Berkeley Symphony
MVP Volunteer Award: Michele "Mikki" Andina, Santa Barbara Symphony
MVP Volunteer Award: Mary Jane Cooper, Santa Barbara Symphony
MVP Volunteer Award: Mary Eichbauer, Vallejo Symphony
MVP Volunteer Award: Lloyd Garrison, San Bernardino Symphony
MVP Volunteer Award: Janet Garufis, Santa Barbara Symphony
MVP Volunteer Award: Nancy Israel, New West Symphony
MVP Volunteer Award: Nancy McAleer Golden, Santa Barbara Symphony
MVP Volunteer Award: Renee Rymer, Marin Symphony
MVP Volunteer Award: Marilyn Solter, Redlands Symphony

Keep reading to learn more about the 2022 Award Recipients and their accomplishments.

“As orchestras emerge from the pandemic and resume live performance, ACSO honors and recognizes extraordinary individuals whose vision was never doubted, acknowledges the change-makers in our industry, and celebrates the unshakeable connection between orchestras and their communities,” said Sarah Weber, ACSO Executive Director. “We are incredibly proud of the awardees and the innovation, nimbleness, and deep sense of service they have brought to their work. They represent so many incredible leaders in our membership network who have gone above and beyond to bring live music back and who face the future of our field with optimism.”

Thank you to the ACSO Awards Task Force for their careful, sensitive, and thoughtful consideration of all nominees: Dean McVay (Chair), Connor Bogenreif, Alicia Gonzalez, Akilah Morgan, Jonathan Rios, Amber Joy Weber, and Sarah Weber.


The Executive Leadership Award recognizes the chief executive officer, executive director, or managing director of an ACSO member organization for extraordinary leadership in the classical music field by advancing the mission of his/her organization, creating a vision that inspires others, creating strategies to overcome challenges, and uniting a team to meet the demands of the changing world of classical music performance.

 Jenny Darlington-Person, Executive Director, Music in the Mountains

"[Jenny] has not just advanced the mission of MIM, but she has further fostered and created a culture of inclusion, resilience, and inspiration," said Music in the Mountains Marketing and Donor Services Manager, Hillary Hodge, who nominated Jenny for the award. "Like so many leaders in the arts, she has faced challenges these past few years, but in those challenges, she has created a vision that inspires others and has put together strategies to overcome those challenges.” 

She continued, “Jenny is the type of leader who leads from the top down as well as from the bottom up. Under her example and direction, no person feels small or that their effort is insignificant.” 


The Emerging Professional Award recognizes the current contributions and the future potential of an individual who has been in the orchestra/classical music field for less than five years but who has already made significant contributions to their organization, irrespective of available resources or budget, and has demonstrated the potential for leadership and continuing professional growth. This individual has experienced early career success in the field, has helped elevate the mission of their organization, and thus is actively making an impact in the community. The award comes with a $500 honoraria.

Virginia EvansTiffany Fajardo, Patron Services Manager, Berkeley Symphony

I’ve only had the privilege of working with Tiffany for two months but from day one I could tell she was the glue of this staff,” said Kate Kammeyer, Executive Director of the Berkeley Symphony. Tiffany supports every person, looks after every detail, constantly finds improvement to systems, brings creative ideas and feedback to every area she is involved in. She is hungry to learn and pushes herself, she is mature beyond her years and she cares about organizational culture including advancing in DEI to look through this lens in our work. We are incredibly lucky to have Tiffany and are in good hands going into the 22/23 season."


ACSO launched the MVP Volunteer Award in 1996 to recognize exemplary volunteers, volunteer projects, and volunteer organizations and to thank a few of the hundreds of dedicated, hardworking, and committed volunteers that orchestras and classical music organizations depend on every day. 

Mikki Andina, Santa Barbara Symphony

Michele “Mikki” Andina, past Symphony board member and avid chorus member, was recognized for her work recruiting friends and fellow Symphony supporters to safely host musicians in their homes during the pandemic, helping to build connections between donors and musicians and saving $44,000 for the Symphony. Dr. Nicholas Fuentes, VP of Community Education and Enrichment, wrote in his nomination, "She is a volunteer who works alongside professional staff, musicians, and music education staff to help us deliver our mission to provide the highest quality musical experiences to the entire Santa Barbara community and to inspire a passion for symphonic music in the next generation of audience members, musicians and supporters."


Linda BurroughsMary Jane Cooper, Santa Barbara Symphony

Mary Jane Cooper was recognized for her service with the Symphony’s Music Van Program, working with local teachers to ensure that third-grade students in Santa Barbara County have access to music education. During the pandemic, she created a virtual Music Van experience and then brought it safely back in person to schools. Dr. Nicholas Fuentes, VP of Community Education and Enrichment, wrote in his nomination, “Her dedication to inspiring kids and bringing them the gift of music has been unparalleled during the difficult times we’ve encountered in the past years. Her ongoing work impacts our organization as well as our community.”

Mary Eichbauer, Vallejo Symphony

"[Mary’s] work for and with the symphony has been outstanding,” said Vallejo Symphony Board President Suzie Peterson. “Mary has been President twice. Her generosity has been noticed countless times, and she has been known to give her own money on several occasions to help the Vallejo Symphony meet its goals. She even writes the information program notes for every concert.”


Leslie LassiterLloyd Garrison, San Bernardino Symphony

"The quintessential Board Member, each year [Lloyd] devotes hundreds of hours to representing the organization at civic events, hosts friends and colleagues at Symphony performances, and generously supports Symphony operations,” said SBSO Executive Director Dr. Anne Viricel. “Although Mr. Garrison has built a distinguished career in international business, he finds time to serve on a number of Symphony committees, always bringing with him a statesmanlike thoughtfulness that ensures every decision will be well considered. He regularly attends chamber of commerce events, represents the Symphony at donor events, and is the one person we can always count on to sponsor all the flashlights, pens, and calendars our patrons receive. He also established coordination with the City of Upland Unified School District allowing our organization to serve over 1,000 additional students every year! Clearly, Mr. Garrison is a tireless board member; but he is also a caring and decent human who inspires others through his calm yet unyielding desire for excellence in all he does. Therefore, for the reasons listed and so many more, Mr. Lloyd Garrison is a true MVP and we believe his efforts are deserving of recognition. 

Janet Garufis, Santa Barbara Symphony

Janet Garufis was recognized by the Professional Administrative Staff at the Santa Barbara Symphony for her impactful work as Board Chair, ensuring that transparent communication and fiscal responsibility increased – and urging the organization to always “do the right thing” for the orchestra and the community. The staff wrote in their nomination, “Giving back is in Janet Garufis’ DNA. In a historic announcement, and while simultaneously holding her long-time position as Chairman of Montecito Bank and Trust in Santa Barbara, Janet agreed to join both the Music & Artistic Director, Nir Kabaretti and President & CEO, Kathryn R Martin in five-year leadership terms; knowing that continuity was key to the organization’s success.”


Charles SchimmelNancy Israel, New West Symphony

"Nancy Israel’s boundless energy and fierce uncompromising dedication to music has enhanced and encouraged the New West Symphony since its inception in 1995,” said New West Symphony CEO Natalia Staneva. “Nancy and her late husband founded a gala fundraising series that Nancy hosted more than ten years in his memory, and she brought in substantial funds and attendees for at least thirty other gala events. She is a dear friend to many of the young musicians who were nurtured by the Symphony over the years, and she has taken an active interest in all of the Symphony’s educational programs. Nancy has been honored by the City of Thousand Oaks, and she actively keeps the New West Symphony in the consciousness of city government and the community. At the age of 93, she continues volunteering her time, talent and treasure. Nancy is an absolute gem in our New West Symphony family.” 

Nancy McAleer Golden, Santa Barbara Symphony

Nancy McAleer Golden was recognized for her fundraising work on the Santa Barbara Symphony’s board of directors, drawing on her 35 years as a fundraising consultant. Her work helped the Symphony make new connections in the community as well as strengthen the ones they already had. Her determination and passion for the Symphony ultimately resulted in the awarding of a new $50,000 grant. “She is a board member who goes to great lengths to ensure an organization’s success,” VP of Finance Natasha Miller-Zahn wrote in her nomination. “The amount of time, effort, and heart that Nancy has put into her fundraising for our Symphony is equal to that of a full-time employee – which is extraordinary as a volunteer!”


Renee Rymer, Marin Symphony

"[Renee] is the Symphony’s most active community advocate,” said Marin Symphony Executive Director Tod Brody. “Renee’s contributions to fundraising at the Marin Symphony is perhaps her defining legacy. She had the foresight to champion legacy giving long before the practice was institutionalized at the Marin Symphony. She identified and cultivated a major donor who went on to make the largest donation in Marin Symphony’s 70-year history. This gift laid the foundation for a modern revenue model which relieves pressure on traditional revenue sources (ticket sales and contributions) by developing a robust endowment... Simply put, Renee is an inspiration to us all – whether in the boardroom, on stage as part of our Chorus, in our audience, or out in the community sharing her passion for the Symphony with those around her.

Marilyn Solter, Redlands Symphony

"There is hardly a project or activity or project benefiting the Symphony that doesn't have Marilyn's fingerprints on it,” said Paul Ideker, Redlands Symphony former President & CEO. “Whether standing in the park on Memorial Day Weekend to offer youngsters an opportunity to ‘pet’ the instruments or organize food for the musicians between rehearsals, Marilyn is always there ready to volunteer herself and recruit other volunteers to lend a hand. Whether it's money or muscle, Marilyn is at the front of the line setting an example for others. She's a force of nature and an invaluable resource as the organization strives to fulfill its mission.”

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