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.


Bruce Colquhoun, Volunteer Notes Editor | bcolquhoun@comcast.net President, Spokane Symphony Associates


Message from Our President

Call for Gold Award Submissions!

Building a Race Equity Culture in Classical Music Organizations

2020 League of American Orchestras Virtual Conference Highlights

Strategic Conversations 2020

Message from Our President

Terry White

This year may very well be remembered as a time when the world stopped in response to a global pandemic and the tragic events that occurred in Minneapolis.

The League nimbly moved its annual Conference in June from on-site in Minneapolis to a virtual series of relevant presentations and discussions about the effects of COVID-19 and racism among other topics affecting orchestras. The online Conference was open to all, free of charge to members, and began in May and continued into June. The League’s Volunteer Council participated by hosting three peer-to-peer discussions on fundraising disruptions, supporting our orchestras and musicians, and utilizing technology to move forward during the pandemic.

This shared information prepared orchestras, executive directors, conductors, musicians, board members, and volunteers to respond to the pandemic and maintain our overarching goal—to get live music back on stage. The Volunteer Council will continue the dialogue this fall with a series of “Strategic Conversations” geared to help Presidents and Presidents-Elect maneuver through uncertain times. Topics will include Leadership and Board Development, Membership and Engagement, and Fundraising. These conversations will be moderated by Cindy Kidwell the incoming president of the Council. We hope your organization will be represented during these Zoom meetings on the second and fourth Tuesdays in the fall. Registration is free and can be accessed online at https://www.americanorchestras.org/.

As my year as Volunteer Council President winds down, I would like to thank all the Council members for their support and tireless efforts to make this year successful in the face of so many difficulties. We say goodbye to Tiffany Ammerman (Past President), Debbie McKinney (Sustainer Liaison), and Tresa Radermacher (Conference Chair) and thank them for all they have done for the Volunteer Council for many years and especially for the advice and support they have given me this year.

Call for Gold Award Submissions!

By Bruce Colquhoun and Ginny Lundquist

Be recognized and provide inspiration to other volunteers. How? By submitting your best fundraising, education, community engagement/audience development, communications/technology, leadership/organizational structure, membership, or service projects to be considered for a Gold Award of Excellence. The Gold Award of Excellence recognizes best-in-class programs or initiatives that have made a significant impact on their orchestras. And this year, we are adding a new category for flexibility/adaptability. Submissions are due Monday, August 31, 2020. Winners will be able to share their programs with other volunteers.

If you don’t win a Gold Award, judges may decide your program deserves a Spotlight Award to acknowledge a specific tactic or best practice that contributed to the program’s overall success. Judges also have the discretion to bestow a Classic Award; this is our version of a lifetime achievement award recognizing a longstanding program that sustained excellence and delivered value over decades.

We are calling for award submissions for recognition at the 2021 Conference! Deadline is August 31, 2020. It is easy. You enter once by emailing the completed entry form and the Volunteer Council does the rest! Contact vcgoldaward@gmail.com for entry form and instructions. There is no cost to enter and you can enter multiple programs in one or more categories. Programs must have been completed by June 30, 2020, to be eligible.


Fundraising is the Gold Award of Excellence’s most popular category, highlighting creative and successful elements of fundraising projects. Fundraising projects are considered especially successful when there is a high ratio of profit to expense (i.e., at least 60% profit to 40% expense ratio).

Communication/Technology projects highlight uses of communication and technology to promote and enhance volunteer activities. These projects should demonstrate effective use of contemporary technology to bring some aspect of the orchestra to a specific population.

Community Engagement projects increase knowledge of the orchestra within the community. They have greater value when there are external partnerships between symphony staff, volunteers, musicians, etc. and/or external partnerships with other organizations within the community.

Audience Development projects should have the potential to generate an increase in season or single ticket sales and/or attract non-concert going members of the community.

Education projects bring music educational opportunities to children, youth and/or adults by various means such as camps, classes, competitions, petting zoos, etc. These projects have greater value when there are collaborations with schools and other non-profits in the community.

Membership projects are designed to recruit, retain, recognize and train orchestra volunteers. Membership projects should show an increase in membership numbers or an ability to retain current membership.

Leadership/Organizational Structure projects highlight attempts at building leadership and developing organizational structure by identifying, developing and encouraging leadership. Leadership/Organizational Structure projects should present models for successfully engaging or training your organization and its membership.

Service projects are any projects that focus on providing support or assistance to the orchestra, orchestra staff, or musicians. Service projects should showcase the unique ways you serve your orchestra and the community.

Flexibility/Adaptability is a new category this year due to the global pandemic’s impact on orchestras and volunteer organizations. Volunteers had to pivot from organizing elaborate annual galas and designer show houses to creating smaller gatherings or online events. Being flexible and adapting have been keys to success in the “new normal.”


• Eligible programs/activities must have been completed by June 30, 2020.

• Entry forms are available from vcgoldaward@gmail.com; there is no fee to enter and no limit to the number an organization may submit.

• Completed forms must be emailed to vcgoldaward@gmail.com Deadline for submissions is August 31, 2020.

• Winners may present at the 2021 League National Conference

• Programs may be entered for any of the project categories listed above.

• Entering does not require lengthy answers; responses are designed to be concise, with maximum word counts of 100 to 400 words.


• Print out the entry form so you can review the information requested and gather it before filling out the entry form.

• If you aren’t sure your project merits a Gold Award, please consider entering. Judges may determine it worthy of a Spotlight or Classic Award.

• If you need inspiration, go online to www.goldbookonline.org for a searchable database of past winning entries.

• If you have questions or need a fillable entry form sent to you, please contact vcgoldaward@gmail.com.

Building a Race Equity Culture in Classical Music Organizations

By Sharon Hatchett


The League of American Orchestras is committed to equity, diversity, and inclusion (“EDI”), and recognizes the long-term artistic and institutional health of the nation’s orchestras depends on their ability to engage in and sustain EDI.

To that end, the League has a wealth of EDI information and resources available for our orchestras, volunteer leadership and members who, in many instances, serve on their orchestra boards, are major donors, and have an opportunity to expand their volunteer organization consistent with the EDI objectives of their orchestras.

With that in mind, the League’s Webinar entitled “Building a Race Equity Culture in Classical Music Organizations” is worth checking out. The 90-minute session was conducted (no pun intended) by Kerrien (also referred to as Kay) Suarez on February 4, 2020. Kay is an executive coach and Executive Director of Equity in the Center (equityinthecenter.org) who has a passion for classical music and was a speaker during the League’s Conference in Nashville.

So … what is Race Equity? There is a general understanding of what equity means. In the case of Race Equity, it would be “The condition where one’s race identity has no influence on how one fares in society...” Citing a health example, race equity would mean there would be no disparity, if all women regardless of backgrounds would have the same rate of challenges, including death rates, in childbirth. Because race is the biggest driver across social indicators, the matter of race was the focus of the presentation.

The speaker then goes on to describe a race equity culture, including what that means, what it looks like, and how to achieve such a culture. This includes organizations taking a look at their own organizational structure and culture.

In doing so, Kay discusses a “racial leader gap” in organizations. A term coined by the Building Movement Project (racetolead.org) whose research, per the link on the League site “debunks the myth that the lack of diversity in leadership is due to a “pipeline” program (the root cause is structural racism.)”

In discussing the need to perform racial equity work, Kay focused on the need to move away from the terms “diversity, inclusion and equity”; and reframe the focus to “awake, woke, and work”, which is generally described here:

Diversity (or awake) means the work in the organization is focused on trying to hire people of color and, counting them once they are on board; but would not focus on the lived experience or work experience of those individuals once they become part of an organization; or for that matter the inclusion of people of color as equal members of society broadly, or equal staff and employees inside an organization.

Inclusion (or woke) is where an organization’s focus is explicitly on retaining people of color in an organization, and building an organizational culture, with initiatives in place to ensure people of color do not just work at their organization. Instead, they are made to feel like equal members of the team, that they belong there, and that their lived experiences as people of color are equal to those of their white colleagues.

• The speaker refers to the work of the League as a great example of the difference between focusing on recruiting people of color versus retaining them using fellowships.

• She also referenced a great study by the League around use of fellowships to successfully drive diversity in organizations and the challenges of retaining diverse candidates following the term of the fellowship; noting great data on bringing on a person of color but not giving thought to what their experience is like; citing examples of musicians sitting next to someone who was very explicit and clear about the fact that they did not want the person of color there and did not consider them qualified to play among the group.

• The point of sharing this information was to emphasize the importance of not just pulling people of color into your organization; but rather to transform the organization’s culture to be inclusive of all people; and not to assume the person of color will assimilate to a white dominant culture.

• From there, the speaker addresses the steps that organizations must take to build an inclusive and equitable culture; and commented that while the discussion is centered on race because it is the biggest driver of disparities in society, it was also important to acknowledge the experiences of others, including the LGBTQ experience, gender, and people with disabilities.

Equity (or work) stage is where leaders prioritize creating an environment where different experiences and backgrounds are valued and seen as assets to the organization. There is no need to assimilate to a white dominant culture and organization; nor cover aspects of their identity that do not align with the dominant standard. Instead, a senior leader would help create an environment where people are, with regard to their race and ethnic background, encouraged to share their lived experience outside of work and inside of work, and not cover and assimilate, because that part of their identity is seen as valuable to the work of the organization and its ability to achieve its mission.

• This means an organization will turn the mirror toward the organization internally and look at disparities in outcomes inside of the organization.

• In terms of policies and procedures, leaders demonstrate a willingness to review personal and organizational oppression, and consider how institutional policies and practices serve as barriers to entry, which in the cases of the webinar, focuses on musicians.

• The speaker emphasizes the need for organizations to work with consultants to effectively move through the various stages of the process at all levels of their organization, including the board, senior staff, mid-level staff, junior staff, and volunteers, among others; all of whom would participate in the training to help shift the thinking of the entire organization.

• Worth noting is the speaker’s comment that she has “never worked with organizations that have a more complex stakeholder network or stakeholder matrix than arts organizations, particularly arts presenters.”

• She goes on to indicate that if you change the culture of your organization, you will see a shift not only in the level of diversity relative to musicians, but also board members.

This overview of the webinar is but one example of the information available to your organizations. I would encourage you to check out the recorded webinar on the League website, and the numerous resources on the subject provided there, including the Kellogg business case for equity, and a case study on race equity transformation.

The Winter 2020 Issue of Symphony magazine entitled, “Unheard Voices” refers to Black composers works being a rarity at American Orchestras. Here is the link to the “Hidden Voices” article within the magazine that covers the topic in more detail: https://americanorchestras.org/images/stories/symphony_magazine/winter_2020/Hidden-Voices.pdf

2020 League of American Orchestras Virtual Conference Highlights

By Tresa Radermacher, VC Conference Chair

The Volunteer Council always kicks off the League of American Orchestras’ Conference every year a day early and this year was no exception. Our first session was held on Monday, May 4 Peer-to-Peer Conversation: Figuring Out Together How to Handle Fundraising in This Difficult Time. Our conversation dealt with how our volunteer fundraising could continue and what those events might transform into. Encouraging volunteers to possess a positive and hopeful outlook with forward moving strategies yielding successful change. Communicating with our associations, symphony boards, patrons, sponsors and donors is crucial now more than ever before. How to pivot cancelled or postponed events while still raising funds for our orchestras proved a key point to consider. Ideas for stay -at home-events and how to change a major fundraiser to an online auction were several of the ideas shared during this presentation.

Our second session was held on Monday, May 18: Peer-to-Peer Conversation: Idea Exchange Regarding Volunteer Support of Our Board, Musicians, Volunteers, and the Community. This conversation highlighted communication strategies of keeping our symphonies front and center in the community, online, and with our patrons, donors, and sponsors. Asking and listening to our constituents on how the pandemic affected them is crucial to keeping them returning to hear the music. The session included ideas on how to showcase content created by our symphony and musicians along with challenges on social media, staying connected through Zoom meetings, continuing to encourage giving, and reviewing fundraisers to be more flexible and to make smaller ones larger, larger ones smaller, and doubling up if at all possible. Ask the Orchestra how volunteers can help, while engaging our volunteers, donors and sponsors in a plan for moving forward for the rest of 2020 and 2021.

Our third and final session was held on Monday, June 1: Ways to Connect with Our Members through "Virtual Virtuosos: How Apps Can Strike a Chord with Volunteer Work." The highlights were app ideas to help facilitate communications with our association members and beyond, so we keep them engaged and informed. The following were discussed in detail with shared usage experiences: Zoom, Slack, Signup Genius, Doodle, Dropbox, G Suite, Venmo, Square, Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.

Due to the online Conference format, we did not have the traditional presentations we would normally have at an in-person Conference, but you will be able to read all about their wonderful projects with a PowerPoint presentation and handout for the Gold Award of Excellence winners, and handouts for the Classic and Spotlight Award winners on the League of American Orchestras’ website at https://americanorchestras.org/board-members-volunteers/volunteers/volunteers-at-conference.html

Congratulations are extended to our Award winners:

Six Gold Award of Excellence Winners:

• MSOL E-News: Reaching Members in the Digital Age - Madison Symphony Orchestra League

• A Change of Seasons for "The Four Seasons"- Women's Symphony League of Tyler

• A Southern Savour Supper Club - Dallas Symphony Orchestra League

• Lunch and Listening - Amarillo Symphony Guild

• Orchestrating Excellence Luncheon - Oklahoma City Orchestra League

• Utah Symphony Youth Guild - Utah Symphony Guild

Eight Spotlight Award Winners:

• Baubles and Bubbly for Beethoven - LPO (Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra) Volunteers

• Behind the Scenes at Severance Hall Tour Guide Program - Friends of The Cleveland Orchestra

• Bucket Brigade - LPO Volunteers

• Follow the Music to Paris- Women's Association of the Northwest Indiana Symphony Orchestra Society

• Hollywood Happening - Las Vegas Philharmonic Guild

• 36th Second Fiddle Sale- Volunteers for Symphony of the Quad City Symphony Orchestra

• Second Fiddle Shoppes - Baltimore Symphony Associates

• Volunteer Appreciation Party - Madison Symphony Orchestra League

One Classic Award Winner:

• Kansas City Symphony Designers' Showhouse 2019- Kansas City Symphony Alliance

I am extending a big thank you to the Volunteer Council Conference Committee comprised of Cindy Kidwell of the East Texas Symphony Orchestra, Terry White of the Amarillo Symphony Orchestra, Beth Wise of the Huntsville Symphony Orchestra, Tiffany Ammerman of the Marshall Symphony, Bruce Colquhoun of the Spokane Symphony, Julie Meredith of the Utah Symphony, Laurie Skjerseth of the Quad City Symphony Orchestra, Janet Cabot of the Madison Symphony Orchestra, and guest speaker, Emily Green, who is the Program Coordinator of the Minnesota Music Educators Association and Head Music Librarian of the Minnesota Youth Symphonies plus our two chat box monitors, Kathy Leibrand, Kansas City Symphony Guild and Irene Sohm, Santa Rosa Symphony.

I want to thank all the volunteers who joined us for our three sessions to engage in conversations about how to go forward in multiple ways to continue to follow the music of our orchestras. Many volunteers could not join us during our sessions; but have gone back later to catch our recorded sessions on the Conference portal. Those sessions will be up through July 31.

It was a pleasure serving for six years on the Volunteer Council and this year as Volunteer Council Conference Chair. I wish your associations and symphonies the best of luck as we together keep the music playing!

Strategic Conversations 2020

By Cindy Kidwell

Volunteer Association Presidents and Presidents-Elect are invited to register for a series of calls this fall, focused on a variety of leadership topics and facilitated by members of the Volunteer Council. The purpose is to connect, network, and learn from other volunteer leaders from across the U.S. Known as Strategic Conversations, the series of five calls will be conducted on Zoom this year, allowing participants to engage in virtual meetings.

The League of American Orchestra’s Volunteer Council hosts the one-hour sessions which will include topics on governance, leadership development, member recruitment and retention, fundraising, communication and technology, education, and this year, volunteer management in uncertain times. It is always amazing how much volunteers have in common, regardless of location or size of their home orchestras, and how the conversations and solutions suggested can be beneficial to all.

To allow for true conversations, participation is limited to fifteen Presidents and/or Presidents-Elect. The Zoom meetings will be held the second and fourth Tuesdays during fall 2020 at 3 pm Central time:

September 15 and 29

October 13 and 27

November 10

To register at no charge, go online to ‘League of American Orchestras’ website (https://www.americanorchestras.org/). At the top of the page, select “Governance and Volunteerism”, then select “Volunteers” tab on the left, then select “Strategic Conversations” from the topics listed to the left. You will be directed to a Signup Genius page where you may register with information specific to your home organization. Questions may also be directed via email to “VCconversations@gmail.com”.

The Volunteer Council

Your Volunteer Council works to bring together the best ideas, projects, and practices from volunteers around the country to share with you at Conference and through various resources.


Cindy Kidwell, East Texas Symphony Orchestra, TX | President

Julie Meredith, Utah Symphony, UT | President-Elect

Terry White, Amarillo Symphony, TX | Immediate Past President

Beth Wise, Huntsville Symphony Orchestra, AL | Conference Chair

Ginny Lundquist, Detroit Symphony Orchestra, MI | Conference Chair-Elect


Sally Bullard, Philadelphia Orchestra, PA

Janet Cabot, Madison Symphony Orchestra, WI

Darlene Clark, Houston Symphony, TX

Bruce Colquhoun, Spokane Symphony, WA

Sharon Hatchett, Chicago Sinfonietta, IL

Donna Hoffman, Orlando Philharmonic, FL

Lis Hughes, Cleveland Orchestra, OH

Kathy Leibrand, Kansas City Symphony, MO

Charlotte Lewis, Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra, LA

Laurie Skjerseth, Quad City Symphony Orchestra, IA

Irene Sohm, Santa Rosa Symphony, CA

Ex-Officio Members

Marena Gault, AMSOV President, Dallas Symphony Orchestra, TX

Camille Williams, Sustainer Liaison, Arkansas Symphony, AR

Marylou Turner, Sustainer Mentor, Kansas City Symphony, MO

Follow us on Facebook at Friends of the League of American Orchestra Volunteer Council.


Created with images by Josh Hild - "untitled image" • Alev Takil - "Audience waiting, seated, in a theatre, opera house in New York." • Rob Simmons - "untitled image" • Prayogo Pujo Haryono - "Jakarta Philharmonic 2019. " • Kazuo ota - "untitled image" • Teddy Österblom - "untitled image" • Antoine Julien - "Music sheet in the dark" • Scott Graham - "Brainstorming over paper" • Jason Leung - "Colorful confetti falling down with a teal background" • Headway - "Gaining a deep understanding the problems that customers face is how you build products that provide value and grow. It all starts with a conversation. You have to let go of your assumptions so you can listen with an open mind and understand what’s actually important to them. That way you can build something that makes their life better. Something they actually want to buy."