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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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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Re-Opening the Arts Safely: How You Can Help by Being an Advocate

ACSO is part of a statewide task force, convened by Californians for the Arts, to advocate for re-opening the arts safely. This group is committed to working together in advocacy to educate the state on guidelines needed and sharing resources so that communities across California can begin to access the arts again and we can get back to work.

California Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development (GO-Biz) is drafting outdoor live performance guidelines and looking at aligning live arts performances with movie theater reopening guidelines, but it is up to the California Department of Public Health to issue any guidelines.

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Up and Down the Scale: June through October 2020

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


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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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NEA Announces CARES Act Funding Guidelines

On April 8, the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) announced its guidelines to swiftly distribute funding to nonprofit arts organizations from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act to preserve jobs and help support organizations forced to close operations due to the spread of COVID-19.

With the $75 million appropriated to the NEA through the CARES Act, the Arts Endowment will award 40% of the funds directly to state and regional arts agencies by April 30 to distribute through their funding programs. Sixty percent of the funds are designated for direct grants to nonprofit arts organizations all across the United States. The deadline to apply directly to the NEA is April 22, 2020 with the earliest announcement of grant award or rejection by June 30. 

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