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

League Conference 2021 Volunteer Constituency Sessions

Meet the Six 2020 Gold Award of Excellence Winners!

Dallas Symphony League Wins Classic Award

Meet the Six 2020 Spotlight Award Winners

The Volunteer Council

President’s Message

By Cindy Kidwell

In this special issue of Volunteer Notes, we celebrate volunteer organizations that have achieved the coveted Gold Award of Excellence, the Classic Award, and the Spotlight Award presented by the League of American Orchestras. We congratulate each of these organizations and the volunteers whose creativity and efforts made great projects happen! And, we wish to thank each for taking the time to document their activities and for allowing us to share their accomplishments with symphony volunteers all across North America.

The Gold Award of Excellence competition was in high gear this summer when volunteer organizations submitted project documentation. Judging was completed in September. Now we have eleven winning projects to share with you. Fair warning—you are going to want to read about each and every one! You are sure to find ideas to replicate or adapt for your organization!

This year, projects were submitted in five categories: Fundraising, Communication/Technology, Community Engagement/Audience Development, Education, and new this year, Flexibility/Adaptability. This new category was added due to the pandemic when many organizations with spring fundraisers found it necessary to restructure their events from live to virtual. Others found new ways to keep members and boards engaged when meetings and gatherings were not possible.

As you enjoy this special issue of Volunteer Notes, we invite you to begin thinking now about documenting the activities your organization has undertaken during the fall of 2020 and those you are planning for the winter and spring of 2021. Then, in the summer 2021, you will be ready to accept the League’s invitation to apply for a Gold Award of Excellence.

The Volunteer Council is delighted to present these great ideas from symphony volunteers that may spark your imagination and creativity and enliven the great work you do for your symphony and your community.

League 2021 Conference Volunteer Constituency Sessions

By Beth Wise

The upcoming League Conference will be completely virtual, with general Conference sessions conducted June 7-17, 2021. Constituency meetings, such as our volunteer-focused sessions, will be hosted over several months, largely outside the general Conference schedule. In the works are three exciting virtual sessions, each one to one-and-a-half hours, addressing timely topics and issues. Potential focus areas, identified as critical to success by our volunteer organizations, include Flexibility/Adaptability, Membership, and Leadership. Watch for your invitations to Volunteer Constituency Sessions on January 27, April 26, and June 11. Registration is required, and we hope many of you will plan to participate.

Dallas Symphony League Wins Classic Award for 62 Years of Fundraising Excellence!

By Ginny Lundquist Chair, Gold Award Selection Committee

It is not every year that the Volunteer Council selects a project for a Classic Award, but the judges agreed that the Junior Symphony Ball 2020 was just such an award-winning superstar!

Started in 1958, and now in its 62nd year, the Dallas Symphony League Junior Ball is their longest running fundraiser, has a devoted following, earns in excess of $370,000 for their Symphony, and brings support from throughout the community for orchestral music! This is the main fundraiser for the Dallas Symphony League and requires a large and very dedicated committee of more than 70 volunteers to make it so successful year after year.

Called a “Party with a Purpose,” the event was founded with the concept of student-led, parent-guided leadership. The event was formed to introduce Dallas-area students (10-12th grade) to the Dallas Symphony Orchestra and in turn, teach them about giving back to the community.

One of the key factors in making this project a Classic was the involvement of volunteers of all ages, paving the way for future generations of concert-goers for the Dallas Symphony. Plus, this year’s event was the most successful fundraiser to date.

Kudos to the leaders and volunteers of the Dallas Symphony League. And to the high school students who supported, attended, and will benefit from the Dallas Symphony’s youth programming now and in the future. Congratulations!

Meet the Six 2020 Gold Award of Excellence Winners!

By Ginny Lundquist Chair, Gold Award Selection Committee

During this pandemic year, your Volunteer Council wanted to know what orchestra leagues, guilds, and councils across the country were doing to keep the music playing. We found out—a lot! Here we highlight the six award winners for 2020. Later in November we will have a synopsis of each winning project on the League website; but for now, please enjoy reading about them below!


Lewis Elementary Violin Residency Program Expansion Project

Houston Symphony League

Fran Peterson, President and April Lycos

This project was conceived by the Houston Symphony and League Education Committees to allow the League to be volunteers for Lewis Elementary School and provide fundraising initiatives, thus bringing more people into this education project. The symphony provided community embedded musicians for the string instruction program for 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade students. The purpose of the program is to:

• bring music to an underserved community

• increase access to music

• improve the quality of life and bring joy to Houston residents

• enable people to make connections with music and the Houston Symphony

• and continue the program by moving to another under served school.

In the second year of a three-year project, the Houston Symphony League had been asked to help purchase an additional 40 violins (to supplement the original 40 violins) and support additional instruction time for the voluntary after school program. The League had raised $22,000+ by the time of the coronavirus shutdown.


2020 Stay-at-Home May Wine Brunch

Women’s Association of Northwest Indiana Symphony Society (WANISS)

Marti Ross, President and Tresa Radermacher

The Northwest Indiana Symphony Orchestra is on hiatus now from holding concerts or community events due to COVID-19. But that didn’t stop WANISS from working to support their symphony. During the pandemic, WANISS turned their long-running main fundraising event into a virtual event. Their goal was to raise additional funds of at least $10,000 to fulfill their annual pledge to the Northwest Indiana Symphony of Munster, IN. They first postponed the Wine Brunch from May to June 24 as an in-person event and then, realizing an in-person event was not going to be allowed by the State of Indiana, they pivoted to an at-home event using Zoom. Twenty board members of WANISS voted to approve the pivot of this event from live to virtual, and five volunteers began designing the invitation, raffle ticket, and RSVP card and began securing raffle prize monies.

On June 24, board members were present on Zoom in their festive hats to watch the raffle prize drawing live, WANISS president Marti Ross added a welcome, a symphony accountant drew the four winning raffle prizes, and the chairperson announced the winners. Event tickets were sold for $25. Revenues came from a raffle and event tickets supplemented by sponsors and additional donors. Using email, Facebook posts, and publicity requests to local newspapers, they got the word out. One hundred and seventy-five people participated in the Stay-at-Home May Wine Brunch. WANISS is already planning on having this successful virtual template ready for next year’s event, just in case. Cheers!

Community Engagement

Celebrating 40th Year of Kinder Konzerts

FRIENDS of the Minnesota Orchestra

Mary Ella Pratte, President and Irene Suddard

The project to celebrate the 40th anniversary season of Kinder Konzerts took a year of planning. The goal was to mark this milestone with a special concert that would include a brand-new commissioned story piece, invite a broader cross section of community members, enhance FRIENDS’ visibility and include the Minnesota Orchestra musicians and staff in significant ways. Saturday, September 28, 2019 was the date. FRIENDS began by selecting three books, then calling for composers. The FRIENDS selected composer Daniel Nass and the story “One-Dog Canoe,” by Mary Casanova. Both are Minnesotans. The premiere was geared to preschoolers and kindergartners but older children and parents also attended. Pre-concert activities included:

• Learning about water safety

• Climbing into a giant canoe

• Creating animal headbands featuring critters in the book

• Orchestral instruments to play

• Collecting musician autographed “baseball trading” cards to take home

After the concert, the musicians, author, composer, and storyteller met the families in the lobby. This event was a year in the making, with twelve volunteers deeply involved during the entire process. Five served on the book selection group and, five on the composer search. Many additional volunteers worked at activity stations on concert day. Ticket sales were the main source of income for the premiere. A $10,000 donation funded the commission and a portion of the premiere. “One-Dog Canoe” books were sold at the event. Attendees who became FRIENDS members that day were given a free book.


The Show (House) Must Go On! Fundraising in a Time of Pandemic 2020

Oklahoma City Orchestra League

Kristen Ferate, President and Wendi Wilson

The Oklahoma City Orchestra League had planned on an annual Orchestrating Excellence Luncheon for the spring fundraiser, but pandemic limitations made it impossible to gather in large groups. With this fundraiser no longer an option, the League put all its efforts into reworking its signature Symphony Show House. After months of planning, the designers completed staging the $2.25 million house and after delaying opening by a month, they decided changes needed to be made. Following CDC guidelines proved to be less challenging than first anticipated. However, the League’s typical Show House volunteers fell into the high-risk category so they adapted with fewer volunteers. An orchestra staffer became the House Manager for the two-week long event. This year, an HGTV-style video could be purchased with an online ticket. This video included interviews with several designers highlighting their spaces, with a “reveal” of the house at the end to give viewers the sense they were special guests to the house.

The League also updated its point-of-sale system for designer sales at the event. Dedicated volunteer members went piece by piece through the house before opening day to take pictures of items, adding descriptions and pricing. All info was uploaded into Square POS allowing a touchless way to sell the items online along with traditional in-house sales. Pop-up boutiques utilized their own POS systems and yielded a percentage of sales for the League. The delayed opening was June 13, with tours running daily through June 28. Tickets were sold online and at the door, and were promoted through social media and their website. Tickets were $20 each, and new VIP online tickets including the video were $35 each. Donations, ticket sales, and merchandise sales all contributed to the event revenue. While this event did not raise as much as a traditional Show House had in the past, they netted more than $65,000, allowing the League to make an impactful annual contribution and support the Oklahoma City Philharmonic’s education efforts.

Fundraising & Flexibility/Adaptability

TABLE ART 2020--The Virtual Event

Omaha Symphony Guild

Donna Brennan, President

TABLE ART 2020 featured formal dining tables decorated with unique and historic pieces. This elegant table invites family traditions and grand celebrations dating back generations to Eastern Europe. For this Hungarian-themed table, Designer Suzanne Kotula used family heirlooms and wedding gifts. The table is decorated with Waterford Lismore Diamond stemware, a set of Herend Golden Edge China and two sets of family sterling silver.

From Julia Russell Designs, this beautiful table features dinnerware with decoration in the form of Persian miniature horses. The colorful banding repeated in the china is inspired by elements of a horse harness and the antique brass pastry trays have unique cut-outs and carving of buckles. Candlesticks with vivid green shades and colorful fresh flowers finished the Cheval d’ Orient theme.

The Omaha Symphony Guild is a nonprofit organization of volunteers dedicated to promoting the growth and development of the Omaha Symphony Orchestra. The Guild plays an integral role in serving education and outreach programs in the Omaha community, the states of Nebraska and Iowa, and the surrounding region. Despite the many changes and adaptations resulting from COVID-19, the Omaha Symphony Guild successfully re-imagined its 15th annual fundraising project. This event celebrated the Omaha Symphony’s Centennial season by featuring dining tables decorated with Waterford crystal and inspirational table displays from designers across the nation. Waterford Master Craftsman and Spokesman Tom Brennan (known as the man behind the New Year’s Eve Times Square crystal ball) participated in the event, and former Nebraska First Lady Diane Nelson served as Honorary Chairman.

Beginning as a two-day, in-person event, TABLE ART 2020--The Virtual Event transformed into an online platform including a video of the event and robust web-based content. The event kicked off on June 23 with an online auction and ended July 30 when the event video went offline. A total of 430 tickets were sold, generating $100 per ticket net revenue. Income was generated primarily from ticket sales in addition to event sponsors and an online auction. Four-hundred and thirty attendees yielded gross revenue of $44,453. Volunteers began planning in mid-September with a small nimble committee. Several additional volunteers managed distribution of catered lunches and gifts during the event. Kudos for a transformative fundraising event!


2020 Online All-Star Crescen-Dough Auction

Huntsville Symphony Orchestra Guild

Janet Skidmore, President and Ina Wilson-Smith

The 2020 Crescen-Dough Auction is part of a long-established tradition of the Guild supporting the Huntsville Symphony Orchestra. When other community events were postponed indefinitely or cancelled due to the pandemic, the auction chairs and Guild president determined that the best option with approximately three weeks until the planned date was to convert to a fully online event. Postponement would have potentially conflicted with other rescheduled community events and would also overlap with the 2021 auction planning. A primary concern was how to notify potential guests about the change to an online event. Most local events were cancelling, and the auction chairs were concerned that guests would assume the same for this auction. Postcards were mailed to the original invitation list announcing the online transition. Sponsors were also notified (and thankfully no one wanted their money back). An email/social media/radio campaign promoted the online auction. And the symphony also promoted it through their public relations office.

The 2020 online auction is a twist to the traditional Crescen-Dough Auction. For 46 years the auction was held at a local event venue on one evening with silent and live auctions and a drawing during dinner and cocktail hour. Due to COVID-19 constraints, all events were held online. The event chair published the website three weeks before the original event date, then opened all items for bidding for one full week before the original date. The traditional drawing was held on Facebook live. Bidders donated to the Fund a Need appeal through the online platform, by texting to give, or by mailing checks to the Guild. Instead of taking items home from the event, bidders picked up items at a storage facility via curbside pickup on two dates the week after bidding closed. Online bidding opened at noon April 12 and closed at 5 pm April 19. Approximately 225 volunteers were involved with the entire auction process and planning. Roles ranged from acquiring auction items, to soliciting sponsorships, data entry, and facilitating item pickups. Orchestra staff assisted with item acquisition, pickup/delivery, and marketing. Net income totaled nearly $183,000! Now that’s a successful flexibility/adaptability project executed in three weeks! Congratulations!

Meet the Six 2020 Spotlight Award Winners

By Bruce Colquhoun

The Spotlight Award highlights a unique tactic or concept that can be used by other volunteer organizations in their future projects. Here we present the six award winners for 2020. Later in November we will have a synopsis of each winning project on the League website; but for now, please enjoy reading about them below!


Concluding 32 Years of Parties of Note in 2020

Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra (CSO) Volunteers

Sarah Maguire, Volunteer Manager and Patricia Wagner

Over the past 32 seasons, Parties of Note has been a series of events presented by CSO volunteers with the goal of raising awareness and funds in support of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra and Cincinnati Pops. The program had two goals: 1) give patrons the opportunity to attend several fundraising events throughout the year with unique programs, venues, and lower ticket prices and 2) raise money with minimal expense or risk to the organization. Until that time, fundraising involved large-scale events that incurred major expenses that had to be recovered with high ticket prices to net significant revenue.

Parties of Note presented smaller, more intimate gatherings, often in the host's home. Each season of parties featured a wide range of venues, cuisine, and entertainment, including CSO musicians. The key to financial success was that hosts incurred 100% of the expenses. (These musical feasts have been adopted by several symphony volunteer organizations through the years.)

The CSO is beginning to use this time in history to assess their past and understand their necessary role in society to create change and improve the lives of all they serve, especially when it comes to addressing systemic racism. CSO is retiring this program and will shift resources to support other facets of strategic planning like the one mentioned above. The net revenue for the 32 years was $1,400,000.


Firebird Symphony Ball 2019

Symphony League of Kansas City

Pam Bruce, President and Mary Leonida

There were several goals for the Ball. However, the primary goal was to raise essential operating funds for the Kansas City Symphony. In addition, they wanted to explore some innovative concepts for the event while maintaining many longstanding traditions.

Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts

It was decided to hold the Ball for the very first time at the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts, the performance home of the Kansas City Symphony. Selecting this venue likely would attract many new guests and please returning patrons. Moreover, hearing the symphony perform at the Kauffman Center’s Helzberg Hall would showcase the talented musicians to guests who may not ordinarily attend symphony performances.

The Firebird theme was chosen to compliment the orchestra's playing of the Firebird Suite as part of the program for the Ball. The hall was decorated in a Firebird theme as well and even some of the attendees dressed in bright colors!

Adjusting the budget to accommodate a completely new venue was among the challenges they faced. It required that they had to precisely determine the flow and logistics of the evening as guests moved about the performing arts complex. Net revenue for this event was $604,405.


Fundraising Pop-Ups

Houston Symphony League

Fran Peterson, President and April Lykos

The Houston Symphony League used out-of-the-box thinking to come up with the concept of Pop-Ups. Pop-Ups are mini-fundraisers of unlimited variety, held to raise money and contribute toward the goal of a major event, in this case, Magical Musical Morning. To assist in meeting this goal, the League created two Pop-Ups: (1) Magical Musical Morning Salon Concert, a concert/dinner in a donor home with a Houston Symphony musician; and (2) Magical Musical Morning Tea at Kiran’s, a morning tea enhanced by a harpist, champagne, and fascinators. The League is always assessing how they can raise more net revenues and open opportunities to increase their membership base. The Pop-Ups achieved that and more. Its targeted, smaller scale and unlimited themes made it a perfect base to raise money and highlight the attributes of the League and the symphony – thus, becoming attractive to donors and new members alike.

Pop-Ups are a great source of additional revenue and a way to gain traction for a larger event. They can also be stand-alone events. Donor support is not one-size-fits-all; Pop-Ups provided unique, smaller, targeted and special micro-events that raised money to support the Houston Symphony. The net revenue for this event was $10,000.


CSO 125 Anniversary Timeline 2020

Cincinnati Symphony Volunteer Program

Sarah Maguire, Volunteer Manager and Patricia Wagner

As the CSO started looking toward celebrating 125 years, it was decided that the plethora of articles, photos, and other historical information about the orchestra that existed needed to be reviewed, organized, and exhibited in some way that would show the history of the orchestra, while still focusing on the future. The staff’s goal was to produce an electronic timeline that would be available online from the orchestra’s website and launched during the anniversary weekend in January 2020.

The biggest obstacle was the volume of information. What seemed like an endless number of artifacts was stored at the public library: 423 boxes held concert programs, scrapbooks, magazines, audiovisual materials in multiple formats, awards, photographs, posters, and printed publicity and public relations materials. Volunteers worked with the library staff to identify the boxes and to scan and/or photograph items for uploading to the website.

When the project began in 2018, it was unknown what the final product(s) would be. These efforts culminated in the creation of an accessible online timeline, a program insert, a photographic display at the annual gala fundraiser, and as inspirational material for a series of musical talks by the CSO's music director.

All data has been organized and stored electronically as an archive for future access. By building an electronic timeline, their history is now available worldwide and is easily accessible from their website.


MSOL Connect 2020

Madison Symphony Orchestra League (MSOL)

Beth Rahko, President and Janet Cabot

The Madison Symphony Orchestra and the MSOL understand the need to maintain their connection with their patrons and subscribers during this extended closure. They realized that without in-person events, they had to find a different way to stay connected on an ongoing basis. Their MSOL Connect project was born out of the belief that by offering informative and educational programs related to music and involving musicians, staff, and musical experts from the community, they could provide meaningful and relevant engagement for members during this time.

They needed to connect in the short term as well as to stay relevant and meaningful in the long term. Longer-term, not knowing when they would be able to meet again, they didn't want to "go dark" for an extended period. Discussion in board meetings turned to how best to stay connected. The idea of holding a series of virtual events for members was suggested and board members volunteered to serve on a committee to develop the concept.

This project was intended to be a member benefit. Attracting non-members to join would be a bonus, but was not the goal. However, as they continue these online presentations, they will be encouraging members to invite a friend to participate as a recruitment tool. These virtual events need not be a concert; they can be sessions covering a variety of topics instead of a concert. The inaugural event featured Steve Kurr, a dynamic instructor, musicologist, and conductor, who narrated an hour-long tour of the life, music, and legacy of Beethoven. A second event "Humor & Classical Music" was held later. The MSO League used the Zoom platform to put on these virtual events.


Designer House 2020

Arkansas Symphony Orchestra Guild (ASOG)

Teresa Osam, President and Camille Williams

The designers completed the home, the home was professionally photographed for the ASOG program, and then the world shut down because of COVID-19. After sitting on the project for a few weeks and debating on how to proceed or if to proceed at all, the board decided to proceed with a goal of netting $50,000.

They first determined that in a normal year their event typically does not have an issue with large crowds. Normally people tour the home throughout the day in small numbers. They came up with the opportunity for guests to tour the home privately with a designer in small groups of six or twenty for a donation. These were two-hour tours and were done during off hours of the house. These guests could tour the home in the safety of their own group and with all safety rules intact. They also created a safety walk tour through the house which proved to be successful the guests loved it. Because their guests had been homebound and wanted to get out, they also loved their safe shopping gift shop. Local vendors stocked the gift shop with amazing items, resulting in revenues equal to those made in years not affected by COVID-19.

The ASOG learned that they did not need as many volunteers as they originally thought and, that they could maintain social distancing. They learned that creating a tour path was much needed for their guests. They learned that continuing their private tours during off hours was a huge donation generator. They met their revenue goal for this project of $50,000.

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)

Charlotte Lewis (New Orleans, LA)

Kathy Leibrand (Kansas City, MO)

Laurie Skjerseth (Bettendorf, IA)

Irene Sohm (Santa Rosa, CA)

Camille Williams (Little Rock, AR)


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