League of American Orchestras Volunteer Notes A PUBLICATION OF THE VOLUNTEER COUNCIL

The League of American Orchestras Volunteer Council leads, advocates, and champions volunteer organizations in their efforts to support their orchestras' community outreach and civic partnerships to advance the experience of orchestral music.


Irene Sohm, Volunteer Notes Editor | irene@sohmplace.com


President’s Message

Volunteer Point of View Represented on Recent League Webinar on Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI)

Volunteer Council’s Strategic Conversations Recap

Gold Award Winners Receive their Prizes

Traditions Reimagined: Resiliency Unveiled

Re-Energizing Membership Webinar – April 27

The Volunteer Council


By Cindy Kidwell

“I like the dreams of the future better than the history of the past.” Thomas Jefferson

January is a month of great hope. It marks a new beginning, a fresh start. It enables us to think new thoughts and, if we allow it, January permits us to envision the best that we can become. As volunteers, we have a chance to create ideas for new and better ways to support our orchestras, to set new goals, develop new plans.

The League of American Orchestras Volunteer Council exists to help symphony volunteers do just that—to inspire you in support of your orchestra by connecting you with like-minded volunteers all across the country.

Many of you participated this month in the Volunteer Council’s first webinar of 2021, and we hope the ideas on “Traditions Reimagined: Resiliency Unveiled” sparked your creativity in setting goals for the coming year. We hope, too, that it has already launched your organization into planning for tremendous success! Two additional webinars are being coordinated this spring and early summer under the leadership of the Volunteer Council’s Conference Chair, Beth Wise of Alabama. We invite you to make it a priority to join with other volunteers for these valuable learning opportunities.

2020 was a difficult year as we dealt with the uncertainties of a worldwide pandemic. So, we welcome turning the calendar and celebrating the arrival of 2021. Although we may not yet be able to meet as usual, the day is coming soon when we will be able to gather. In the meantime, it is important that we prepare now with well thought-out goals and an effective plan of action to propel our organizations forward. After all, the best is yet to come!

Our orchestras need us, and we need to help in every way possible to get our symphonies back on stage, filling our communities—and the hearts and souls of all who live there—with the treasured sounds of live symphonic music.

Wishing you all the best in 2021!

Volunteer Point of View Represented on Recent League Webinar on Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI)

By Janet Cabot

Volunteer Council Member Sharon Hatchett was one of three panelists on the League’s webinar: “EDI as an Imperative in Stakeholder Engagement and Fundraising.” Ron Schiller and Angelique Grant, both with the Aspen Leadership Group and co-authors of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion: Strengthening Engagement and Fundraising through Inclusion, led the panel with a presentation. To ground the discussion, they shared these statistics: 94% of orchestra executive directors and CEOs are White; 12% of orchestras have done a diversity audit, and 30% have a diversity plan. They noted: “Diversity is counting heads. Inclusion is making heads count.”

Sharon concurs, using this analogy: “Diversity is inviting someone to the dance. Inclusion is asking them to dance.”

Sharon brought a unique perspective as a volunteer whose “home orchestra” has EDI at its core. The Chicago Sinfonietta was founded in 1987 by Maestro Paul Freeman to address the lack of diversity in orchestras. The organization’s mission is to champion equity, diversity, and inclusion by creating community through bold symphonic experiences.

To address how EDI and fundraising connect, Sharon said that EDI is both a moral and business imperative as is the need for effective fundraising: “Our founder also understood that to ensure the success of our orchestra, he would need support in several areas, including fundraising, audience development, and community engagement. As a result, he connected with women who were active in the civic community, including Elizabeth Wilkins, the founder of our volunteer organization, the Southside Friends of the Chicago Sinfonietta, to support his mission and vision. There is a symbiotic relationship between our volunteers and the orchestra, which remains stronger than ever because of our shared commitment to the sustainability of the orchestra and Maestro Freeman’s legacy to change the face of classical music.”

The question on the minds of many: “This is overwhelming, and I don’t know where to start. What can I, in my orchestra, do to move from awareness to assessment to sustainable and measurable action?” For Sharon, it requires a commitment to change. “Small steps are better than no steps at all,” she said. “Your actions must also be intentional to ensure your success in recruitment, retention, and overall sustainability. It is important to signal, both internally and externally, your commitment to EDI if you want people to get behind you and support you. Tone at the top matters!”

Two preliminary steps she suggested:

• Engage with your stakeholders on the topic of EDI.

• Read information on what it means to be an “inclusive leader.” One sample article: https://hbr.org/2020/03/the-key-to-inclusive-leadership

Watch for more on this topic from the League of American Orchestras. They plan a revision and relaunch of the EDI Center on their website in March. In addition, we will share how Volunteer Council members’ orchestras and volunteer organizations are addressing EDI in upcoming issues of Volunteer Notes.

We are pleased to announce that Volunteer Council Member Sharon Hatchett has been elected a member of the Board of Directors of the League of American Orchestras. A Volunteer Council member since 2016, Sharon is a member and past president of the Southside Friends of the Chicago Sinfonietta. Congratulations, Sharon!

Volunteer Council’s Strategic Conversations Recap

By Cindy Kidwell

This past fall, Presidents and Presidents-elect representing twelve symphony volunteer organizations from across the United States participated in a series of five video conference meetings known as “Strategic Conversations.” These focused conversations were hosted by the League’s Volunteer Council with the purpose of allowing local volunteer leadership to connect, network, and learn from other volunteer leaders across the U.S.

Strategic Conversations are hosted annually for Presidents and Presidents-Elect. Typically conducted as conference calls, the format transitioned in 2020 to a video conference platform, allowing participants to engage in virtual meetings.

The hour-long video conference meetings were held every other week in September, October, and November, facilitated by Volunteer Council President Cindy Kidwell, who was assisted by President-Elect Julie Meredith and Secretary Kathy Leibrand. Participants selected a focused agenda for each session. Topics included volunteer management in uncertain times, member recruitment and retention, leadership development, the role of the nominating committee, record management, and communication and technology.

Janet Cabot of Madison, Wisconsin and Darlene Clark of Houston, Texas, both members of the League’s Volunteer Council, also shared their expertise during special presentations.

Participants noted that no matter the location or size of their home orchestras, the conversations and solutions suggested could be applied in some way to all.

Strategic Conversations will be held again in the fall of 2021 for Presidents and Presidents-elect. Registration will be conducted through the League’s website beginning in early summer. Participation is limited to allow for true conversations during the video conference meetings. We encourage your organization’s participation.

Gold Award Winners Receive their Prizes

By Ginny Lundquist

Each year at our national Conference, we recognize excellence and present physical Awards of Excellence to our volunteers. With Conference being held virtually this year, our award winners were given an opportunity to share their smiling faces on camera as they pose with their awards. Here is a sampling of the winners (with photos received in time for publication). Congratulations to all of our winners!

Marti Ross, President of the Women’s Association of The Northwest Indiana Symphony Society, with their Gold Award of Excellence for their project “2020 Stay at Home May Wine Brunch.”
Mary Ella Pratte, President of FRIENDS of the Minnesota Orchestra, with their Gold Award of Excellence Award for their project "FRIENDS of the Minnesota Orchestra Celebrates the 40th Year of Kinder Konzerts.”

(From Left) Fran Peterson, President, Houston Symphony League, Karinne McCullough, VP Education, and April Lykos, LAO Liaison, with their Gold Award of Excellence for their project “Lewis Elementary Violin Residency Program.”

Kim Brannon, Past President of the Dallas Symphony Orchestra League, with their prestigious Classic Award received for their project "Junior Symphony Ball 2020.”
Larry West, Chair of the "Designer House 2020" project that received a Spotlight Award for the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra Guild.
Beth Rahko, President, Madison Symphony League and chair of the "MSOL Connect" project committee, which received a Spotlight Award.
Betty Tutor, VP Fundraising, Houston Symphony League, with their Spotlight Award for their project “Fundraising Pop-Ups.”

Traditions Reimagined: Resiliency Unveiled

By Laurie Skjerseth and Camille Williams, Webinar Chairs

On January 26, the Volunteer Council presented its first webinar of 2021. This session looked at how volunteer organizations are tweaking traditions and holding firm as they continue to support their communities during this time of uncertainty. Special emphasis was placed on ways these organizations have changed and adapted with respect to holding meetings, fundraising, and engaging and communicating with their members.

The Volunteer Council received 24 entries to be considered for the coveted Gold Award of Excellence this year. Especially timely were those submitted under our new category for the pandemic year: Flexibility/Adaptability. The submissions exceeded our expectations and reinforced our core belief in the power of volunteers. These projects made clear the lengths that orchestra volunteers are willing to go to reimagine their traditional activities in order to continue to support their orchestras and members in uncertain times.

These volunteers know their communities and the resources available to them, and show remarkable resilience and ingenuity in unlocking these resources to better help their orchestras. We celebrated the remarkable ability of these organizations to reimagine their traditional activities to be viable and successful in a changing world. We salute those in the process of forming new traditions to carry on the mission of what is important to each group situated in each community. The resiliency of old and new inspires and awes us. The future is bright and adaptability is the key to success!

The League of American Orchestras has recorded the session. You can watch it here on the League website.

Re-Energizing Membership Webinar – April 27

By Beth Wise, 2021 Conference Chair

Members are the lifeblood of any volunteer organization. As we exit the pandemic, learn how volunteer leaders across the country are working to invigorate their members. We will examine innovative ways to involve volunteers in fun projects, gain new members, and keep volunteers’ energy flowing.

Our co-leaders are Sally Bullard (Philadelphia Orchestra) and Ginny Lundquist (Detroit Symphony Orchestra).

This virtual meeting will take place on Tuesday, April 27 from 3-4:30 pm Eastern/12-1:30pm Pacific. The webinar is free, but you must pre-register to receive your invitation to the event. Registration will be available two to three weeks ahead of time. Watch for email from the League for details.

2020-21 League Volunteer Council

Our Mission-The purpose of the Volunteer Council is to support the mission of the League of American Orchestras by providing leadership, communication, and a resource link between the League and orchestra volunteers.

Leadership Committee

Cindy Kidwell, President (Tyler, TX)

Julie Meredith, President-Elect (Salt Lake City, UT)

Beth Wise, Conference Chair (Huntsville, AL)

Ginny Lundquist, Conference Chair-Elect (Detroit, MI)

Terry Ann White, Immediate Past President (Amarillo, TX)


Sally Bullard (Philadelphia, PA)

Janet Cabot (Madison, WI)

Darlene Clark (Houston, TX)

Bruce Colquhoun (Spokane, WA)

Marena Gault, AMSOV rep. (Dallas, TX)

Sharon Hatchett (Chicago, IL)

Donna Hoffman (Orlando, FL)

Kathy Leibrand (Kansas City, MO)

Charlotte Lewis (New Orleans, LA)

Laurie Skjerseth (Quad City, IA)

Irene Sohm (Santa Rosa, CA)

Camille Williams (Little Rock, AR)


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