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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.

Summer Edition 2023

Loretta H. Davenport, Volunteer Notes Editor | lhdavenportjd@aol.com

In This Issue

President's Message

Highlights from Conference 2023

Introducing our Spotlight Award Winners

Call for Gold Award Submissions!

2023-2024 League Volunteer Council

President's Message

by Janet Cabot, President, Volunteer Council 2022-2023

I began my term as President of the Volunteer Council in June 2022. In the blink of an eye, a year had passed, and I turned over the gavel to Laurie Skjerseth as our new President. What a year it was!

We shared information with fellow volunteers through Volunteer Notes, our quarterly e-newsletter. We reviewed awards submissions and selected ten winners — five Gold Awards of Excellence, four Spotlight Awards, and one Classic Award. We sent out newsletters to our sustaining members, past Council members who continue to support the organization, and hosted two Zoom get-togethers for them. I hosted and facilitated “Strategic Conversations”, our series of four, one-hour sessions developed specifically for new volunteer Presidents and Presidents-Elect, during which a dynamic group of engaged leaders discussed challenges and opportunities for their organizations.

Last November, Council members joined for three days of meetings in Pittsburgh, the Conference host city. Our liaison, Diane Unkovic, President of the Pittsburgh Symphony Associates, along with her board members, rolled out the red carpet. They made us feel welcome from the moment we arrived.

Over the ensuing months, Council members were hard at work organizing constituency sessions, planning an Award Reception, hosting a special lunch and learn session for the Texas Association for Symphony Orchestras (TASO), and more. Before long, it was June—conference time! A highlight for me was joining fellow Council member Marena Gault of the Dallas Symphony League, her CEO, my Executive Director, and the volunteer president and Executive Director from the Amarillo Symphony for a session open to all Conference attendees. It was heartening to look out and see a full room for our presentation, “Leveraging Volunteer Power.”

Next year marks the 60th anniversary of the Volunteer Council, established as the Women’s Council in 1964. In the intervening years, dedicated women (and a few men) have generously given their time and talent to represent fellow volunteers. This year was no exception. Together we made beautiful music! I am proud to have my name added to the long list of those who have served as the League’s Volunteer Council President.

Highlights from Conference 2023

by Bruce Colquhoun, Conference Chair

The League of American Orchestra’s conference was held June 14-16, 2023, in the beautiful, welcoming city of Pittsburgh. It was my pleasure to serve as Conference Chair for Volunteer Council programming. After a year of planning in collaboration with the League, the Pittsburgh Symphony Associates, the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra administration, the Pittsburgh arts media, as well as orchestra administrators and volunteers from throughout the country, we presented a stimulating and informative program that was well received. We also had a lot of fun.

We kicked things off on the Tuesday evening before with a reception for our Classic, Gold and Spotlight Award winners. For the first time, all awardees were recognized at this event. Our hosts provided a beautiful setting and gracious hospitality which created a celebratory mood and led seamlessly into our annual dine-around event, which is open to all conferees and normally staged at several local restaurants. However, this year our liaison, Diane Unkovic, President of the Pittsburgh Symphony Associates, offered us use of the private Duquesne Club. Guests had access to this beautiful facility and its impressive art collection (tours included). Contrasting with the formal setting was the casual, festive taco dinner theme, which provided a comfortable, relaxed atmosphere for socializing and networking. The event was lively and was sold out!

Top: 2023 Award Winners; Second Row Left to Right: Volunteer Delegates; our generous hosts, Bill and Vivian Benter along with Melia Tourangeau, President and CEO, Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra; Bottom Row Left to Right: Janet Cabot and Darlene Clark, Volunteer Council members; guests mingling at the Award Reception

Three sessions of engaging presentations of our award-winning projects followed over the next two days. Conference attendees heard dynamic presentations and took home numerous ideas for fundraising, member recruitment and community engagement, and problem solving around these areas.

Left to Right: Volunteers with Doug Hagerman, Board Chair, League of American Orchestras; A fun taco Networking Dinner at the Duquesne Club and Tune-Up Party after the Pittsburgh Symphony concert

We enjoyed a wonderful presentation from the Pittsburg Symphony staff on their community outreach programs, which was both highly impressive and thought provoking.

We also tried something new this year. We partnered with the League to present a session open to all Conference delegates titled “Leveraging Volunteer Power to Amplify Orchestra’s Fundraising and Community Outreach Efforts.” The panel included the Executive Director/CEO paired with the President of the corresponding volunteer group from the Dallas Symphony Orchestra, Madison Symphony Orchestra, and Amarillo Symphony Orchestra. They were joined by moderator, Nancy Wrenn from the East Texas Symphony Orchestra Foundation and former Volunteer Council member. Discussion was centered around the opportunities and challenges to overcome, making the case for why orchestras need a strong volunteer organization, and the resources that volunteers can provide. To listen to a recording of the session or read a transcript, visit: https://americanorchestras.org/conference-2023-leveraging-volunteer-power-to-amplify-orchestras-fundraising-and-community-outreach/

Volunteer delegates also enjoyed a session featuring two well-known local media personalities. The first was Jeremy Reynolds, music critic for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, who spoke on the topic of "New Music at the Symphony - a Critic's Take". The second was by Jim Cunningham, WQED FM classical radio show host. His topic was “Pittsburgh Symphony on the Air". These two presentations were highlights of our conference program!

Left to Right: A captivating audience during the Leveraging Volunteer Power session; Volunteer session

Expanding our programming to engage all constituency groups is something we look forward to building upon. If you have suggestions on topics and/or speakers, please reach out to Melanie Hausmann, mhausmann@americanorchestras.org. We look forward to seeing you at the League's National Conference in Houston, to be held June 6-8, 2024.

Introducing our Spotlight Award Winners

by Maggie Stehman, Spotlight Award Chair

This year for the first time, the Spotlight Award winners joined the Gold Award of Excellence and Classic award winners at our annual Volunteer Council Awards Reception. At this celebratory occasion, each honoree received their Gold Award of Excellence, Classic or Spotlight award before an audience of fellow winners and volunteers. In another first, the Spotlight winners were presented with a newly upgraded and designed plaque to mark their achievement. Two days later, our four diverse Spotlight Award winning projects were presented at a volunteer constituency meeting. Our winning projects, three focused on fundraising and one on membership recruitment, exhibited creativity, initiative, and hard work.

Our Spotlight Award Winners were:

Volunteers for Symphony, Quad City Symphony Orchestra "Car Raffle 2021"

Using innovative marketing strategies, this new initiative of the Volunteers for Symphony raised $22,000 for the orchestra’s music education programs.

Spokane Symphony Associates: Spokane Symphony Orchestra "Upscale Sale"

Wondering what to do with all those place settings? That too big but still beautiful rug...? These and other high quality household items donated to the Spokane Symphony Associates fill a warehouse for their annual Upscale Sale to support the Spokane Symphony Orchestra.

Friends of the Annapolis Symphony: "Sing to Me, Sylvie"

Friends of the Annapolis Symphony Orchestra believe you should not have to reside in Los Angeles to attend the premier of a new film by an upcoming artist. They brought the Los Angeles lifestyle home as a fundraiser for the Annapolis Symphony Orchestra.

Women’s Symphony League of Tyler, East Texas Symphony Orchestra: "Membership Recruitment 2021-22"

This well-structured Membership Recruitment program generates new members on two levels – by appealing to mothers and their children to join the League. Those who become members make a commitment to participate in the activities of the League as well as performance and other elements of the East Texas Symphony Orchestra during their high school years.

Call for Gold Award Submissions!

by Irene Sohm, 2024 Gold Award Chair

The League of American Orchestras Volunteer Council is now accepting project submissions for the prestigious Gold Award of Excellence! The Gold Award of Excellence recognizes the best-in-class volunteer initiatives and events that have made a vital impact on orchestras. The award categories are Fundraising, Communication/Technology, Community Engagement/Audience Development, Education, Leadership/Organizational Structure, Membership, Service, and Flexibility/Adaptability. Judges may decide an entry deserves a Spotlight Award for recognition of a specific tactic or best practice which helped contribute to the success of your overall program. Judges may also grant a Classic Award, comparable to a Lifetime Achievement Award, acknowledging a timeless program that has sustained excellence and effectiveness over decades. One application makes your organization eligible for any of these three awards.

Important Entry Information

  • Eligible programs/activities must have been completed between July 1, 2022, and June 30, 2023.
  • Programs may be entered in the following categories: fundraising, communication/technology, community engagement, audience development, education, membership, leadership/organizational structure, service, and flexibility/adaptability.
  • Entry forms are available here on the League website. There is no fee to enter and no limit to the number an organization may submit.
  • Submit your form on or before Friday, September 8, 2023. We can’t guarantee acceptance of the submission if the form is turned in after that date.
  • Include between 1 and 5 images that are pertinent to your project. These should be sent with the application, not under separate cover.
  • After you have completed your form, please save a copy to your computer for your records. Then attach the completed form and 1-5 images to an email and send to: vcgoldaward@gmail.com. Images must be in JPEG or PDF format.
  • Winners must present at the 2024 League National Conference in Houston, June 6-8, 2024.

Entry Tips

Strategic Conversations for Presidents and Presidents-Elect

by Laurie Skjerseth, Volunteer Council President 2023-2024

Registration is Now Open

Each fall, the President along with members of the Volunteer Council facilitate Strategic Conversations, a multiple-week series on Zoom for volunteer association Presidents and Presidents-Elect. Strategic Conversations will consist of four one-hour sessions held at 3:00 p.m. Central Time each week. Zoom sessions begin Wednesday, September 20 and continue on Wednesday, September 28, October 4, and October 11. Each session will focus on a different topic. Participants will be surveyed in advance to finalize topics. There is no charge to participate. Register by September 8.


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

  • Laurie Skjerseth, President (Venice, Florida)
  • Kathy Leibrand, President-Elect (Kansas City, MO)
  • Darlene Clark, Conference Chair (Houston, TX)
  • Maggie Stehman, Conference Chair-Elect (Washington, D.C.)
  • Janet Cabot, Immediate Past President (Madison, WI)


  • Julie Brantley (Richmond, VA)
  • Bruce Colquhoun (Spokane, WA)
  • Loretta Davenport (Chicago, IL)
  • Marena Gault (Dallas, TX)
  • Barbara Lake (Los Angeles, CA)
  • Charlotte Lewis (New Orleans, LA)
  • Florence Mc Lean (Baltimore, MD)
  • Paula McReynolds (Waco, TX)
  • Irene Sohm (Santa Rosa, CA)

Ex-Officio Members

  • Venise Stuart Dallas, TX | Association of Major Symphony Orchestra Volunteers (AMSOV) Liaison
  • Douglas Hagerman, League of American Orchestras | President of the Board of Directors
  • Melanie Hausmann, Houston, TX | League Liaison
  • Becky Odland, Edina, MN | Sustainer Liaison-Elect
  • Mary Lou Turner, Kansas City, MO | Sustainer Mentoring Program
  • Camille Williams, Little Rock, AR | Sustainer Liaison
  • Simon Woods, League of American Orchestras | President & CEO