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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Calling All ACSO Members to Participate in Virtual Arts Advocacy Day on April 15

Join ACSO and your art colleagues all around the state at Virtual Arts Advocacy Day on April 15, organized by Californians for the Arts, and raise your voice for the arts. Now more than ever we need to learn how to be effective and informed advocates to protect public funding for the arts.

A full day of activities has been planned or you can jump in and out of sessions as you like. ACSO Executive Director Sarah Weber will be participating in a panel at 11 AM called "Get to Know Your Statewide Advocacy Organization."

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Message from Sarah Weber, ACSO Executive Director: What We Do For Each Other

The past two weeks have likely been some of the most challenging of our personal and professional lives. Everything that we knew for certain became uncertain. Every activity we engaged in stopped. The people we saw every day are now distant. And live performance of orchestral and classical music has ceased indefinitely.

But even under these circumstances, none of you have given up. Even though every orchestra and ensemble in our membership network has had to cancel or postpone concerts, education programs, and fundraising galas, you have not quit.

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Coronavirus Resources

The ACSO board and staff send support and sympathy to all our members who have cancelled or postponed concerts and other programming. As COVID-19 continues to spread, orchestras and musicians are anticipating financial loss. We join the League of America Orchestras in urging our members to tell Congress that orchestras and musicians need access to federal COVID-19 economic relief! 

March 14, 2020: Paid Leave Provisions Included in Bipartisan Federal COVID-19 Relief Package

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Guest Blog Series: Reflections on A Year of Women

Reflections on A Year of Women
Tara Aesquivel, Executive Director, American Youth Symphony

 The American Youth Symphony adopted a theme for its 2018/19 season: The Year of the Woman. It started as an idea for one concert -- a program comprised entirely of female composers. 

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Governance Seminar: Building Board Champions for Your Orchestra

Event Postponement and update from the League of American Orchestras as of March 11, 2020:

This event has been rescheduled due to concerns of health and safety of everyone involved. Our decision to reschedule has been based on our understanding of the stringent policies and guidelines for "social distancing" put in place by the Mayor of San Francisco and their Department of Health, the guidance we are receiving from the Centers for Disease Control concerning travel and large group gatherings, and our conversations with seminar registrants.

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Raise Your Voice for the Arts! Arts Advocacy in California - April 14 & 15

Event postponements and update from Californians for the Arts as of March 12, 2020:

Out of an abundance of caution and to align with current public health recommendations regarding COVID-19, we’ve made the difficult decision to postpone the ACCM 2020 Convening on April 14, 2020 to the Fall in Sacramento and produce a Virtual Arts Advocacy Day on April 15, 2020. Read the full announcement here

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Guest Blog Series: Your Orchestra’s Value and Financial Health Depend Upon Your Community by Amy Williams

Note from ACSO: Our membership network is full of incredible people with a wealth of life experiences, talents, and diverse perspectives and backgrounds. We want to share their insights, points of view, and wisdom with all of you, as well as raise the voices of individuals who are making a difference for the classical music field. Our guest blog series features people from different communities throughout California and the western region, from different sizes and types of classical music organizations, and with different jobs and responsibilities. They will share what they have learned, express their opinions about the sector, and ask challenging questions that will help us shift our thinking and be better advocates for this art form that we all love.
Your Orchestra’s Value and Financial Health Depend Upon Your Community
Amy Williams, Managing Director, Camerata Pacifica

Recently I have been seeing too many arts organizations put community impact and financial stability in two separate buckets. They think that serving their entire community comes at a high financial price, but this does not need to be the case. What if, instead, this misconception is flipped and it turns out that serving your entire community, BOTH those who attend and support your orchestra (the converts) and those who don’t (the skeptics), actually helps your financial stability.

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Ten Classical Music Social Media Accounts to Follow in 2020

It's a new year so you may have just gone on a spree of unfollowing and defriending to clean up your social media house and start fresh. Now are you ready to spruce up your feed for 2020 with some new content? Are you looking for some insight, humor, or new ideas? ACSO has you covered! Our own social media guru, Anthony Crespo, has rounded up a few people and organizations (in no particular order) within our membership network that have taken classical music social media content to the next level. You are guaranteed to find something that will make you laugh or challenge your perspective. You may even be inspired with ways to liven up your own content. And you will definitely be reminded why the orchestra/classical music field is a great place to work. Do you have suggestions about other classical music social media accounts that we should be following? Email Anthony to let him know.

1. North State Symphony
Instagram: @northstatesymphony
This orchestra from northern California maintains a very active Instagram account with photos and videos from concerts and outreach events. And no one has more fun than their staff team. They even make a simple day in their administrative offices look like a party. You may already know the North State Symphony from their viral “Stravinsky Firebird Scream” video back in 2017.

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ACSO Welcomes a New Member to the Team

We are thrilled to welcome Ben Kutner as our new Membership and Development Manager.
Ben has a background in classical music administration and music composition. Originally from New York, he founded the New Parnassus Ensemble there and served as its artistic director and chief administrator. His own music has been performed across the U.S. and he has written about classical music for various publications.
Ben said, "Since moving to California, I've found the classical music scene to be open to new approaches, committed to contemporary music, and dedicated to increasing the diversity in our field. It's exciting to be here."