NEA Announces $195,000 in Grants to 5 ACSO Members

For its first major grant announcement of fiscal year 2022, the National Endowment for the Arts recommended more than $33 million in project funding to arts organizations nationwide. Five ACSO members have been selected for these grants, totaling $195,000 in funding (see below). For the full announcement from the NEA, please click here.

“These National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) grants underscore the resilience of our nation’s artists and arts organizations, will support efforts to provide access to the arts, and rebuild the creative economy,” said NEA Acting Chair Ann Eilers. “The supported projects demonstrate how the arts are a source of strength and well-being for communities and individuals, and can open doors to conversations that address complex issues of our time.”

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ACSO Guest Blog - Betting Big: How Calculated Risks Paid Off For The Sequoia Symphony

 By Joshua Banda, Executive Director, Sequoia Symphony

I’m a risk-taker by nature. I tend to take calculated risks and, when I really believe in something, I like to “bet big.” So, just like everyone else in our field, when the pandemic forced the Sequoia Symphony  to shut our doors and we couldn’t count on ticket income in 2020, we were faced with the question of what to do. Do we just save the money we have left and wait it out (hoping that the funds in our bank account and grants would be enough)? Or do we adapt and make a plan to spend the money we have on a new kind of programming that has the potential to help us meet our budgetary needs during these unprecedented times and into the future?

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Thank You to our 2020/2021 Donors!

As 2021 comes to a close, it is a time to pause and reflect on the challenges and wonderful changes that have happened to our industry this year, not least of which is that orchestras are once again performing live and creating music for their communities.

Here at ACSO, we are so proud of the services and support we have provided to orchestras, and we could not have done it with out our generous funders, sponsors, and donors who believe in our mission and work.

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ACSO Celebrates National Arts & Humanities Month By Highlighting Our Members' October Concerts

National Arts & Humanitites Month logoACSO joins thousands of arts organizations and communities across the nation to recognize October as National Arts & 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:

  • FOCUSING on equitable access to the arts at local, state, and national levels;
  • ENCOURAGING individuals, organizations, and diverse communities to participate in the arts;
  • ALLOWING governments and businesses to show their support of the arts; and
  • RAISING public awareness about the role the arts and humanities play in our communities and lives.

ACSO is participating by compiling and sharing the below list of our members' in-person and virtual concerts throughout the month of October. We are thrilled to see a safe return to live music with a wide variety of concerts and events happening this month from ensembles of all sizes. Scroll down to find a concert near you!

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ACSO and 6 of Our Members Receive Nearly $230,000 in California Arts Council Grants

On September 14, the California Arts Council (CAC) announced a revision to its previous grant award announcement for 2021, awarding more than $11.4 million across an additional 484 grants in project and operational support for nonprofit organizations and units of government throughout the state of California. The update more than doubles the original number of grants awarded, from 441 to 925, and nearly doubles its original award allocation for its first five programs for the 2020-21 fiscal year to $24,490,261.

The decision, approved by the Council at its meeting on August 25, was made in direct response to the arts and cultural field’s ongoing need for support amid the continuing economic threat spawned by the COVID-19 global health crisis. The CAC said its revised allocations accomplish a number of critical goals for the Council: funding hundreds of organizations with strong applications that originally went unfunded; significantly prioritizing funding for small, economically vulnerable organizations; increasing support for BIPOC-led and BIPOC-serving organizations; and protecting the diversity of the arts ecosystem across the state. See the full announcement here.

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Revisit Michael Morgan's Closing Plenary Talk from the 2021 Annual Conference

On August 6, the final day of 2021 Annual Conference Conference, Oakland Symphony's executive director, Mieko Hatano, and music director, Michael Morgan, reflected together on the challenges of the past year for the orchestra sector. They recognized the ways California orchestras worked to innovate and continued to bring music to their communities during the pandemic and discussed how the world has changed for orchestras and how we can rise to meet those changes head-on and be more mission-centered and relevant in the years ahead.


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Up and Down the Scale: May through August 2021

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


Michelle Baldonado has concluded her time as Board President with the Palo Alto Chamber Orchestra.

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New ACSO Leadership Elected for 2021/22

During ACSO's Annual Meeting on Friday, August 6, 2021, ACSO members elected six new board members, renewed five board members, welcomed new officers for 2021/22, and said thank you to several outgoing board members.

2021/22 board officers

Alice Sauro, President
Executive Director
Sacramento Philharmonic & Opera

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Guest Blog: A Practical Arts Education

 Note from ACSO: The author of this blog, Julia Rael was ACSO's 2021-2022 Program and Membership Intern and her internship was generously supported by a grant from the Los Angeles County Department of Arts and Culture.

By Julia Rael, ACSO Arts Administration Intern

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ACSO Members Share Their "Coming Together, Breaking Through" Stories

Leading up to the ACSO 2021 Annual Conference Online, we asked members to share their "Coming Together, Breaking Through" stories about how their orchestras brought people together to find support, healing, and inspiration during the global pandemic. 

We compiled written and video responses submitted by ACSO members from All Seasons Orchestra, Folsom Lake Symphony, Mainly Mozart, Sacramento Philharmonic & Opera, and San Diego Youth Symphony. Their answers truly depict the dedication to providing music and connection for their communities. Read and enjoy!

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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

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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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Guest Blog - Making Lemonade: Local Advocacy During a Pandemic

By Anna James Miller, Executive Director, San Luis Obispo Symphony

After over a decade in arts leadership roles in Washington State, I became captivated by California’s Central Coast and decided to take the plunge and relocate my family. In February 2020 I accepted the role of Executive Director of San Luis Obispo Symphony. Like most, I had absolutely no idea that a global pandemic was merely weeks away from shattering our industry and the livelihoods of thousands in our field.

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Advocacy Call to Action: Your Support Needed for $1 Billion Investment in CA Arts & Culture

ACSO is supporting our colleagues at Californians for the Arts by activating our membership network to join a coalition asking for a transformational $1 Billion investment from the state in the arts, culture, and creative industries and workforce through a series of grant programs from multiple state agencies including SBA, California Arts Council (CAC), and California Cultural and Historical Endowment (CCHE). This investment will address rebuilding the arts and culture ecosystem through jobs recovery, capital improvements, workforce development, and community access to arts.

There are THREE actions you can take before April 28 to help us make some noise about this once-in-a-lifetime chance for California to invest in the arts!

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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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Guest Blog: Expanding the Canon

Expanding the Canon by Katie Pieschala

Note from ACSO: The author of this blog, Katie Pieschala, was ACSO's 2020-2021 Program and Membership Intern and her internship was generously supported by a grant from the Los Angeles County Department of Arts and Culture.
In recent years, the classical music field has become increasingly anxious about its relevance. Music magazines and newspapers sound the death knell of the art form and executives wring their hands as their audience numbers decline. While some of this fear is overblown -- do we really believe that orchestras are exclusively populated by octogenarians and destined for imminent extinction? -- classical music is currently not nearly as culturally significant as it has the potential to be. As a young composer and performer, I believe the key to the growth of this field is expanding the canon, using fresh perspectives to reinvigorate existing audiences and engage new ones. We can begin this work re-examining our perception of excellence in classical music.

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New Resource Guide from the League of American Orchestras: Making the Case for Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion in Orchestras

Developed by our colleagues at the League of American Orchestras and available at no cost to members and non-members of the League alikeMaking the Case for Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion in Orchestras offers concrete answers and practical resources that orchestras can use to advance anti-racism and equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI) at all levels of their organizations. Developed in collaboration with a team of peers—orchestra musicians, music directors, board members, and staff—this resource guide is intended to help the orchestra field take action to become more inclusive and welcoming of all people and all differences.
ACSO encourages our members and network to use this incredible free resource as you are navigating key questions around equity and making your case to take action for change. Click here to access the Guide.

Guest Blog: Student-Led Musical Creativity Encourages Hospital Staff

Student-Led Musical Creativity Provides Pandemic Encouragement for Hospital Staff
Amber Joy Weber, Deputy Director, San Diego Youth Symphony

When I reflect on the past year, my thoughts center on healthcare staff - particularly my husband, Mark Weber. As a hospital chaplain during a pandemic, he and his team have been key to supporting not just patients and families, but also their hospital colleagues - from ICU nurses to respiratory therapists to environmental services - who have experienced waves of frustration, fear, and grief. My husband launched multiple grassroots campaigns, resulting in collecting over 1,000 cell phone chargers for patients, over 600 handmade scrub caps for hospital staff, and even pay-it-forward “donations” for staff to get coffee. It is his responsibility and his nature to provide hope to others, both tangible and emotional, and I have found that it has been mine to encourage him.

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