" /> ACSO Announces 2020 Award Recipients

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

Keep reading to learn more about the 2020 Award Recipients and their accomplishments.

“In the midst of a global health crisis, natural disasters, and immense social change, it is even more important to honor those with the ability to navigate change and lead others through, to find opportunity in challenge, and to step up and serve one's community,” said Sarah Weber, ACSO Executive Director. “We had opened all the awards just before the pandemic broke, including two new awards, and we briefly thought about cancelling this year because our members had so much on their plates. But in the end, we decided there is no better time to shine a light on some of the people and organizations within our membership that are doing extraordinary work, even during tough times, because they become an inspiration to us all. We are so proud of the awardees.”

Thank you to the ACSO Awards Committee for their hard work to launch new awards and expand our Awards Program this year, as well as their determination to make sure we didn't miss the opportunity to recognize strong leadership and reward success. ACSO Awards Committee: Amy Williams, Chair; Kathryn R. Martin; Kris Sinclair; Sarah Weber; and John Wineglass


This award is named in honor of Kris Sinclair, ACSO’s longtime former executive director, 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. 

Auburn Symphony

The Auburn Symphony is Placer County’s premier community orchestra. Led by Peter Jaffe and supported by an amazing level of skilled musicians from the area, the orchestra has been inspiring the community and audiences since 1987. Its mission is “to enrich and engage our community, across all generations, through the gift of music.”

The Auburn Symphony is the recipient of the 2020 Kris Sinclair Leadership Award for the remarkable work done by its board and staff in only a few short years to correct a financial deficit, to stabilize and then significantly increase the operating budget, and to raise a surplus that allowed the creation of a reserve fund. They have also moved forward with a successful music director search in the middle of the pandemic and have identified three exciting candidates to move present to their audience when performances can resume. With the Sinclair Award comes $5,000, which the Auburn Symphony will use to hire a fundraising expert to help plan and execute a virtual gala. 

“Like many other organizations, our story may not be especially glamorous, and great efforts are required every day,” said Stephanie Snyder, Board President of the Auburn Symphony. “Like others, we focus on doing the important things, making the right decisions, always keeping our mission in front of our eyes, and the welfare of our, staff, volunteers and community top of mind. It’s all the simple and ordinary things that we have lately come to see that will have a huge impact on being able to survive now, so we can revive and thrive in our corner of the world for years to come. We are ever so grateful for the ‘wakeup call’ and the lessons we learned even before the health crisis changed our lives. It’s what punctuated our Auburn Symphony story with resilience, resourcefulness and a call to governance that will see us through for years to come.”

ACSO Executive Director Sarah Weber said, “The Auburn Symphony is a thirty-year old community orchestra that has proven that determination and commitment from its leadership and devotion and support from its community can result in true change and forward momentum. They took a challenging financial situation and faced it honestly and did the hard work to turn their orchestra around. They have every reason to be optimistic about the future. They truly deserve this recognition.”


Launched this year, 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.

Stephen Wilson, President & CEO, Fresno Philharmonic

Stephen Wilson is the President and CEO of the Fresno Philharmonic. He joined the Fresno Philharmonic in July 2012 as Executive Director. Prior to that he served as Executive Director of the Binghamton Philharmonic in Upstate New York for 12 years. Stephen is a graduate of Boston College and Boston College Law School and has a Master’s Degree in European History from Binghamton University. In Fresno, Stephen has dramatically expanded the orchestra’s education programming which now reaches over 11,000 students. His efforts were recently recognized by the Yale School of Music’s Distinguished Music Educator Award. Stephen serves on the board of the Association of California Symphony Orchestras and is a member of the advisory board for Fresno Unified School District’s Any Given Child Arts Education initiative.

“I can attest to Stephen's incredible dedication as a CEO before the COVID-19, but since March he has been tenacious in maintaining and leading our organization through this very difficult time,” said Rei Hotoda, Music Director and Conductor of the Fresno Philharmonic. “Not only has he been unwavering in our sustainability, but has continually shown leadership in finding new ways to navigate and be flexible. His incredible dedication during this time is a testament to his wonderful work as an administrator, but also someone who is dedicated to ensuring the future of music. He truly believes that our success as an organization has a meaningful impact to music and the arts in our community. I find this quality rare and very valuable. One that needs to be commended.”


Launched this year, the Emerging Professional Award recognizes the current contributions and the future promise 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 his/her 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 his/her organization, and thus is actively making an impact in the community. For its inaugural year, there are two recipients of the award and each receives $500.

Tara Aesquivel, Executive Director, American Youth Symphony

Through her work, Tara Aesquivel strives to share the power of the arts. Tara’s professional experience includes strategic planning, fundraising, production, and community engagement for LA Opera, Pittsburgh Opera, A Noise Within, Antioch University Los Angeles, The Lukens Company, and Invertigo Dance Theatre. Tara has a B.A. in Music from the University of Missouri–Kansas City, a Master of Arts Management from Carnegie Mellon University, and studied Cultural Economics at the University of Bologna. Tara continues learning through professional development programs, including Annenberg Alchemy, the Executive Directors’ Leadership Institute, Dance/USA’s Institute for Leadership Training, and the 2-year Arts Innovation & Management program with Michael Kaiser. Committed to equity, Tara has sought out learning and discourse opportunities such as Undoing Racism by the People's Institute, and a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion masterclass with Vu Le. Tara has served on several Advisory Boards, including Inner-City Arts and Emerging Arts Leaders/Los Angeles. She has also served as a guest speaker, panelist, writer, and adjunct faculty member covering topics in fundraising and nonprofit leadership. She also very much enjoys traveling, photography, and being a mom.

“I was a director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic Association for 10 years,” said Kevin Dretzka, Chairman of the Board for the American Youth Symphony. “Based on my regular interaction with LA Phil executive staff, I have no doubt that Tara's skill set, experience, and continued growth will provide a more than sufficient background for her to manage and grow a much larger and more sophisticated organization in the future.”

Carlos Izcaray, Music Director of the American Youth Symphony, said, “Tara has been a champion of courage and stable leadership through the COVID-19 crisis. While some in the field wavered or fumbled, Tara helped us transform into a national exemplary ensemble, finding ways to utilize technology to share our art form. We were the first ensemble worldwide to create a new composition for virtual orchestra during the pandemic.”

Connor Bogenreif, Manager of Operations & Education, Long Beach Symphony

Connor Bogenreif is an arts administrator, musician, and music educator. Connor serves as the Manager of Operations and Education at Long Beach Symphony where he has produced over 50 concerts, coordinated auditions for over 25 different positions within the orchestra, and brought music education programming to over 100,000 students in Long Beach and the surrounding areas. In addition to his work at Long Beach Symphony, Connor is an active freelance cellist having performed extensively as an orchestral and chamber musician, as well as a soloist, having performed in venues around the U.S. and Europe. He is a champion for new music, having collaborated with several composers on works newly written for him, in addition to recording for scores written for film and media. In conjunction with being an arts administrator and active performing artist, Connor is also passionate about music education. He serves as a faculty member at Chapman University’s Hall-Musco Conservatory of Music, gives career talks at high schools and colleges, teaches cello students privately, and coaches orchestras at schools throughout the Southern California area. Connor received his Masters of Music degree in Performance from the Bob Cole Conservatory of Music at California State University, Long Beach and his Bachelor of Music degree in Performance from the Hall-Musco Conservatory of Music at Chapman University.

“Connor’s potential for future leadership and continued excellence in the orchestral field is limitless,” said Bella Staav, VP of Operations & Education for the Long Beach Symphony. “As an active freelance cellist, seasoned music educator, and operations professional who has already achieved so much in his career, Connor relates to and understands all facets of music making and the performance experience. He is a deep thinker who can selflessly look at any situation from all sides and determine an effective path forward that accounts for an organization’s best interests. Paired with his skills, he is a person of character who is always willing to lift his colleagues up with a helping hand, to show up for his community even in times of distress, and to keep his love and passion for music at the center of all he does. With these positive attributes, I truly believe that Connor will make his mark on the orchestra industry, shape the careers of many who come after him, and is worthy of ACSO’s Emerging Professional Award.”


Launched in 1996, the Most Valuable Player Volunteer Award recognizes exemplary volunteers, volunteer projects, and volunteer organizations and thanks a few of the hundreds of dedicated, hardworking, and committed volunteers that orchestras and classical music organizations depend on every day.

Dr. Jay Fiene, Board of Directors, San Bernardino Symphony

“Dr. Jay Fiene has served on the Board of Directors of the San Bernardino Symphony Orchestra since 2012,” said Dr. Anne Viricel, Executive Director of the San Bernardino Symphony. “The quintessential Board Member, each year he devotes hundreds of hours to organizational leadership and strategic planning, hosts friends and colleagues at Symphony performances, and generously supports Symphony operations.”

"Dr. Fiene has been an officer of the Board for the majority of his years of service. In addition to his current role as 1st Vice President/President-Elect, he leads the symphony’s Governance Committee and serves on the Artistic Planning Committee. He also assists other committees of the board, and in early 2020 notably secured and coordinated a picturesque venue for our inaugural Run to the Beat 5K Run/Walk."

"Clearly, Dr. Fiene 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, Dr. Jay Fiene is a true MVP and we believe his efforts are deserving of recognition."

Mary Ann Orr, Board of Directors and Symphony League Member, Santa Cruz Symphony

“As a board member of the symphony and member of the Symphony League, Mary Ann is always eager to help raise money for the Santa Cruz Symphony,” said Patricia Greenway, Marketing Coordinator of the Santa Cruz Symphony League. “Her tireless efforts to plan and execute fundraisers for our symphony are awe-inspiring. She spends countless hours attending meetings of both organizations to share her creative ideas for fundraising and event planning. She is always willing to contribute her time and money to plan and prepare delectable meals for events of both organizations.”

"Mary Ann's contribution as an event planner and chef for the Symphony League & Symphony Association has contributed significantly to the success of countless fundraisers for the Santa Cruz Symphony."

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