" /> ACSO Announces 2021 Award Recipients

ACSO Announces 2021 Award Recipients

The Association of California Symphony Orchestras (ACSO) is pleased to announce the winners of the 2021 Kris Sinclair Leadership Award, Executive Leadership Award, Emerging Professional Award, and 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: Sequoia Symphony Orchestra
Executive Leadership Award: Julia Copeland, Executive Director, Youth Orchestras of Fresno
Emerging Professional Award: Virginia Evans, Operations Manager, Reno Philharmonic
MVP Volunteer Award: Terry Brown, Founder and Board Chair, Music in the Mountains
MVP Volunteer Award: Linda Burroughs, Board President, Santa Cruz Symphony
MVP Volunteer Award: Dee Lacy, Board President, Youth Orchestras of Fresno
MVP Volunteer Award: Leslie Lassiter, Board Chair, Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra
MVP Volunteer Award: George Lucas, Chair of the Performing Arts Docent Tours, San Francisco Symphony
MVP Volunteer Award: Charles Schimmel, Treasurer and CFO, Monterey Symphony
MVP Volunteer Award: Paradise Symphony Society Board of Directors
MVP Volunteer Award: San Bernardino Symphony Music in the Schools Committee

Keep reading to learn more about the 2021 Award Recipients and their accomplishments.

“As orchestras work toward re-launching live performance, ACSO honors and recognizes extraordinary individuals and organizations whose vision was never doubted, acknowledges the change-makers in our industry, and celebrates the unshakeable connections between orchestras and their communities,” said Sarah Weber, ACSO Executive Director. “We are incredibly proud of the awardees and what they have accomplished in the face of great uncertainty during the past year. They represent so many incredible leaders in our membership network who have gone above and beyond to put music into the world when we all needed it most.”

Thank you to the ACSO Awards Task Force for their careful, sensitive, and thoughtful consideration of all nominees: Dean McVay (Chair), Jeri Crawford, Alicia Gonzalez, Gina Gutierrez, Alan Mason, Mia McNeil, Kris Sinclair, Stephanie Snyder, and Sarah Weber


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.

Sequoia Symphony Orchestra

The mission of the Sequoia Symphony Orchestra is to foster an appreciation of symphonic music and to enrich and inspire the diverse communities of the Central Valley through the transformative power of live music, education and community partnerships. Despite the unprecedented struggles that have plagued the world this last year, the Sequoia Symphony Orchestra developed digital programming that has not only kept people engaged, but will serve as a way to enhance programming when live concerts return.

With the Musical Moments program and Musical Uplink digital performance series, the Sequoia Symphony has offered free content designed to engage the community which led to audience development, educational opportunities, community interest, and the largest individual donation in the organization's 61 year history. Musical Moments and Musical Uplink have been viewed tens of thousands of times across social media, the Sequoia Symphony website, and YouTube channels. With these programs, the organization's individual donations increased over 70% compared to last year and these efforts led to a one-time gift over $850,000.

The Kris Sinclair Award is given along with a $5,000 grant for the organization. "Award Funds will go into the education and skill-development for our staff," said Executive Director Joshua Banda. "We've spent a lot of time and effort learning new skills like social media marketing, video creation, editing and more and we will continue to learn how to do that in more effective ways to make the greatest impact in our community."


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.

 Julia Copeland, Executive Director, Youth Orchestras of Fresno

Julia Copeland was hired as Executive Director of the Youth Orchestras of
Fresno (YOOF) in 2009. After a career that included stints as a violinist in the Louisville
Orchestra, the Mexico City Philharmonic, the Pacific Symphony, and the Los
Angeles Philharmonic, Copeland spent several years as a writer, columnist,
editor, and English teacher before returning to music as an arts administrator.
She is a co-founder of the iMAYO international festival in Bloomington, Indiana,
and of the FOOSA Festival/Fresno Summer Orchestra Academy in California.
She is also founder and director of the El-Sistema-inspired Accent on Access
Violin Program. Copeland is past president of the Valley Cultural Coalition and
currently serves on the board of the Fresno Arts Council.

"Everything, for our ED, is about creating cooperation," said YOOF Board Treasurer Kathryn Whitehouse. "[Julia] likes to quote El Sistema’s Abreu, who observed that 'the orchestra is the only group that comes together for the sole purpose of agreement.' We understand that this principle applies to us, too. We are united in the effort to inspire cooperation among the young people we serve. Watching Julia (pre-COVID) onstage with young violinists in the Access program, all of them focused and intent on creating agreement, right there on the spot, you could sense her pure belief in the magic of music, in its capacity to change young lives for the better. About resources—we on the board are aware that Julia brings all of her resources into play on behalf of this organization...We know she does this because she believes in our mission, in the importance of uniting us in this work. Of course, sometimes we are a bit less united, as when Julia will insist on offering our services for free or on a pay-what-you-can basis. But when we ask how we can afford this kind of generosity, she counters with her own question: How can we afford a community with no access to the arts?"


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 winner receives $500.

Virginia EvansVirginia Evans, Operations Manager, Reno Philharmonic

A native of Nevada, Virginia studied violin at the University of Nevada, Reno where she received both a Bachelors and Masters in violin performance as well as pursuing graduate studies at Texas Tech University. Following graduation, Virginia played in orchestras throughout the Tahoe basin and maintained a private studio, as well as contracting for a wide variety of engagements before joining the staff of the Reno Phil as Youth Orchestra Manager. Now serving as Operations Manager of the Phil, Virginia enjoys playing her violin in her country band “Reckless Envy” and continues to teach privately when she is not exploring Nevada’s hot springs with her husband, John.

"Virginia has enormous talent. She is passionate about the music, has exceptional attention to detail and follow-through, and thrives on challenge. She has created excellent working relationships with staff, with board members and volunteers as well as the production staff and the crew at our concert venue. She knows when to take charge of a situation and when to step back. She has enormous common-sense, which as we know is not common! Overall, I believe Virginia has unlimited potential in the orchestra field. While her primary responsibility at this time is operations, she definitely has executive level talent and potential." ~Tim Young, President & CEO, Reno Philharmonic


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.

Terry BrownTerry Brown, Music in the Mountains

"Terry is one of the founders of Music in the Mountains and has been an integral part of the organization for forty years," said Jenny Darlington-Person, Executive Director of Music in the Mountains. "He served 18 years as the executive director, has been in the chorus for 40 years, and now chairs the board. In addition to sitting on all board committees, Terry volunteers approximately 15-20 hours per week. He helps staff update the website; recruits and leads the volunteer production crew, which for the past 20 years has constructed our venue up to 6 times per year; and volunteers for fundraising events. He started (and continues to volunteer for) one of our biggest fundraisers, Sierra Brewfest, which is the longest running brewfest west of the Mississippi. He is an ambassador for the organization in the community. He helped build up our major gift program over the past five-plus years. He is a student of fund development and has taught himself to write successful, donor centric appeals. He and his wife also house musicians regularly and are two of our biggest donors. During COVID, Terry not only led the board through the pandemic, but convinced them to keep our entire staff employed, wrote crucial fundraising appeals, helped plan our virtual gala, did the website for our online auction, and was instrumental to a 5-month project downsizing equipment from a 5,000 square feet storage facility. Additionally, he is a valuable member of our community and finds time to volunteer for the food bank, Rotary, and serves on other nonprofit boards."

Linda BurroughsLinda Burroughs, Santa Cruz Symphony

"Covid-19 created a big mess for the 2020-21 season but the Santa Cruz Symphony had to also operate without a permanent Executive Director. Board President Linda Burroughs stepped in and took on most of the responsibilities of the ED, spending more than full time on a difficult job at a difficult time. She kept the organization and the Board together, helped to create new programs to get us through, and planned how to ease back into something like a regular season for 2021-22. The Symphony simply would not have survived without her." ~John Dickinson, Santa Cruz Symphony Board


Dee LacyDee Lacy, Youth Orchestras of Fresno (YOOF)

"Dee Lacy has served on the YOOF board since 2011, and has been an exemplary board president since 2017," said Julia Copeland, Executive Director of Youth Orchestras of Fresno. "Although she is a busy practicing physician whose expertise in infectious diseases has been much in demand during the pandemic (she is, in fact, an Infectious Disease Specialist at Kaiser Permanente), Dr. Lacy has worked tirelessly on behalf of the Youth Orchestras, not only chairing meetings but supporting other board members during this difficult time. She has also, not surprisingly, served as a source of reliable information about COVID 19."

"Dr. Lacy willingly speaks at our performances, and has travelled many times to Los Angeles to address the crowds at our summer festival concerts at Disney Hall, representing the Youth Orchestras and our FOOSA Festival, but also representing, in a personal, direct, and compelling way, Fresno itself. We definitely could not do it—any of it, whatever 'it' may be—without her!"

Leslie LassiterLeslie Lassiter, Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra

"Leslie Lassiter, chair of LACO’s Board of Directors, has been an outstanding financial supporter and 'leader among leaders' while supporting the artistic choices the organization has made when pivoting to virtual programming. She was lead sponsor of the July 2020 broadcast premiere of SummerFest, the organization’s first digitally native series. Her direct support and encouragement of other donors ensured that the series was mounted without strain on the organization’s budget. In addition to this artistic achievement, the series was designed to build staff’s core competencies for a future virtual programming. The second digital series, 'Close Quarters,' has been an outstanding success – as it built and expanded on each of the organizational skill sets that SummerFest had nurtured.

Leslie is an advocate, fundraiser, negotiator and cheerful thought partner in all aspects of our work and is ex officio member of all board committees. LACO has had an extraordinary year, without her early and straightforward leadership embodied in the phrase, 'move forward; make art; pay musicians,' it is doubtful that LACO would have enjoyed such great success. In the midst of a pandemic, she even facilitated a major move to new office quarters which will serve the future well. Sometimes, extreme organizational stressors lead to extremely effective leadership in response. In the case of the challenges presented by a 'once in 100 years' pandemic, this remarkable woman provided the stimulus and guidance to meet the challenge with skill and grace." ~Julia Paras, Director of Development, LACO

George LucasGeorge Lucas, San Francisco Symphony

"In all areas of his volunteerism with the San Francisco Symphony, George Lucas has shown and continues to show a profound interest in the organization, his volunteers, and in details that matter and make a positive difference," said Laura Knerler, Associate Director, Volunteer Services. "As the world shut down last March, George pivoted and continued to communicate weekly with his fellow volunteer tour docents, many of them living alone, checking in on them regularly throughout the year.

"He was recruited to the Youth Orchestra Committee after helping to coordinate a huge 10th Anniversary event for the Youth Orchestra, getting major hotels and restaurants to donate massive cakes for the celebration. His skills were needed as he chaperoned his first Youth Orchestra Tour and was quickly promoted to Head Chaperone. He was invested with the responsibility of managing and directing the other dozen or so chaperones on each tour, including helping to interview and select the chaperones, providing chaperone training, as well as on-tour activities. Among other things, George has always been the collector and keeper of the passports, collecting them to go in the hotel safe at each destination and handing them out on travel days for border crossings. Ron Gallman, San Francisco Symphony Education Director says, 'We could not have done these tours as successfully without George as part of the Tour Team!'

"Seeing the need for a membership group that would accommodate working men and women, he and others founded the Metropolitan League of the Symphony, a group that remains today. He has trained and coordinated volunteers in more areas than we have space for but it was always with the goal of excellence. Wherever there was a need, whether repairing a Gala Chair’s gown the night of the event, ironing linens or holding auditions for gift wrapping skills, George has been the volunteer we could call and rely on."

Charles SchimmelCharles Schimmel, Monterey Symphony

"Charles serves as Treasurer and CFO of the Monterey Symphony, but that title does not do justice to the scope of knowledge, support and strategic thinking he provides. He has been at the forefront of large decisions the organization has made which have propelled it forward. Charles always has the Symphony's best interest at heart and does not shy away from a conversation on organizational design, restructuring, or long term planning and does it all with kindness, thoughtfulness and a sense of humor. The Symphony wouldn't be what it has become without Charles!" ~Nicola Reilly, Executive Director, Monterey Symphony

Paradise Symphony Society Board of Directors

"The Paradise Symphony Society (the board of directors for the Paradise Symphony Orchestra) is comprised entirely of volunteers. Two years ago, the town of Paradise was destroyed by the Camp Fire. The Paradise Symphony Board was reduced by about half, the Orchestra lost several members, the rehearsal space and concert hall were spared but unusable due to smoke damage.

"In spite of the mammoth challenges, President Maureen Wisener and the Board’s steady, calm leadership and admirable work enabled the orchestra to pull together and continue. Rehearsals were held in schools and churches in Chico, CA as they were able to share spaces with us. The State Theatre in Oroville cleared some of their functions so we could perform “The Nutcracker” with the Northern California Ballet in January. The PSO went on to finish the scheduled season, the highlight of which was an engagement only four months after the fire. The concert honored the First Responders to a near standing room only audience. A reprise of the concert in nearby Oroville set a record for attendance at that venue. In a situation where many others would give up, the Paradise Symphony Society saw the opportunity to give thanks to the First Responders and hope to the community through the gift of classical music.

"After that season came Covid-19. Once again, the PSS shone brightly. Plans were made so that the orchestra would be ready when life returned to normal. Regular monthly meetings kept us all involved and thinking. The board’s custom of open sharing, innovation, and collaboration enabled the PSO to present events. One Board member found free Covid-safe rehearsal space and a recorded concert featuring two small ensembles was made possible. Another Board member realized this was an excellent time to renovate our website. Plans were then made for another recorded concert. While life was at a standstill in many places, the PSS kept the orchestra moving forward." ~Dr. Lloyd Roby, Conductor, Paradise Symphony Orchestra

San Bernardino Symphony Music in the Schools Committee

"The San Bernardino Symphony Orchestra is proud to nominate the Music in the Schools Team for this year’s MVP Award," said Anne Viricel, Executive Director. "Meeting our mission over the past months has required creativity, collaboration, and the utilization of current technology unlike at any time before. The Team has demonstrated all these things in a way that both meets current needs and provides an outstanding foundation for future music education.

"This project team furthered the Symphony’s relationship with the local university and memorialized this partnership by ending each video with the logos of participant organizations. Every student who sees the videos will see these logos and, we hope, recognize these organizations care about their academic and artistic future.

"The project team strategically provided on-camera opportunities for 20 CSUSB students. As a result, the young viewers will have the opportunity to be inspired by someone involved in the arts who represents their cultural heritage.

"Additionally, because of this project, future docents will not need to be musicians with the ability to demonstrate instruments and will not have to rely solely on audio recordings. This will allow the Symphony to expand its volunteer base which, in turn, will allow more school districts to benefit from their instruction, and, therefore, more future fine arts supporters to have the opportunity to learn about orchestral instruments and orchestral music, not to mention the thousands who will benefit from the educational website links.

"We are very proud of this innovative project...we are honored to nominate the Music In the Schools Team: project coordinators Dr. Lucy Lewis and Dr. Jessica Getman (Board Members and CSUSB professors), videographer and project editor Cash Tijerina (CSUSB employee), graphic designer Sara Bobbitt (CSUSB employee), and San Bernardino Symphony Guild members Judy Podskalan and Sharon McFerran in representation of the Guild and its many docents."

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