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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.

March Edition 2024

Kathy Leibrand, Volunteer Notes Editor | leibraka@gmail.com

In This Issue

President's Message: The Volunteer Council celebrates 60 Years!

Register for the League's 2024 Conference in Houston

Join a Cross-Constituency Conversation: Development Departments and Volunteers

Congratulations to the 2023 Classic Award and Gold Awards of Excellence Recipients!

A Conversation with Darlene Clark, Volunteer Council member

New Member Spotlight: Kent McNeil

Volunteer Council Toolbox

Sign up for League360

2023-2024 League Volunteer Council

President's Message: The Volunteer Council Celebrates 60 Years!

by Laurie Skjerseth, President, Volunteer Council 2023-2024

New Year—New Beginnings!

“Although no one can go back and make a brand new start, anyone can start from now and make a brand new ending.” - Carl Bard

Happy 2024! What an exciting year this will be for the Volunteer Council.

We will be celebrating 60 years! The Volunteer Council will be celebrating this milestone anniversary at the League's Conference in Houston, held June 6-8. For the last sixty years, the Volunteer Council has consistently demonstrated exceptional leadership and steadfast support for their home orchestras and the League. The Volunteer Council continues to embody its founding principles of mentorship and connection, strengthening volunteer associations nationwide through its award recognition programs and strategic discussions with volunteer leaders.

As the Volunteer Council enters its 61st year, we hope to inspire you to get involved with your home orchestra. Step out of your comfort zone and try something new. Volunteer to be an officer. Sign up for a new committee. The possibilities are endless.

Please join the League and the Volunteer Council in Houston for the League's 79th National Conference on June 6-8, 2024. Read all about our constituency meeting plans in this issue of Volunteer Notes.

“You’ll never get bored when you try something new. There's really no limit to what you can do." -Dr. Seuss

Wishing you all the best in 2024!


Register for the League's 2024 Houston Conference

By Darlene Clark

Left: Jones Hall, Houston Symphony; Right: Marriot Marquis Houston

Join your fellow volunteers at the League's 79th National Conference, held June 6-8, 2024 in Houston, TX. The League’s Volunteer Council is planning inspiring sessions and networking opportunities for orchestra volunteers from across the country, including a session with Kay Sprinkel Grace, a leading fundraising expert on how to rethink, reimagine, and reboot the volunteer experience to attract and retain volunteers. Hear presentations of the 2023 Gold Award of Excellence winners and discuss how to adapt to your organization. Enjoy a session focusing on the Houston Symphony’s education and community engagement programs, and a Volunteer Networking dinner the evening prior to Conference. Registration for volunteers is $520. New this year – 2 or more volunteers from League member orchestras can register at the group rate of $430 with the code 24GRPVOL. Register soon to take advantage of these extra savings. You won't want to miss it!

Join a Cross-Constituency Conversation: Development Departments and Volunteers

Interested in learning more about the relationship between development departments and orchestra volunteers? Join members of the development constituency groups and members of the League’s Volunteer Council in a candid cross-constituency conversation moderated by Bob Swaney, Founder and Chief Strategy Officer, RSC Associates. This event will take place via Zoom April 15 from 4-5pm ET. Click here to register - it's free! If you need assistance with your login, contact member@americanorchestras.org.


  • Janet Cabot, League Board member and past President, League’s Volunteer Council, Madison Symphony League
  • Laurie Skjerseth, President, League Volunteer Council, Quad City Symphony League
  • Darlene Clark, member and Conference Chair, League Volunteer Council; Houston Symphony League
  • Nuri Kye, Director of Development, Marin Symphony Association
  • Leslie Hogatt, Director of Individual Giving & Donor Services, Cincinnati Symphony
  • Jennifer Barbee, Associate Executive Director and VP, Development, Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra
  • Maribeth Stahl, Campaign Director, The Cleveland Orchestra

Moderator: Bob Swaney, Founder and Chief Strategy Officer, RSC Associates

This engaging conversation will cover topics such as:

  • What each group brings to the fundraising table
  • What volunteers want from staff members (& vice versa)
  • Strategies for engaging current and prospective volunteers
  • How to establish best practices and guardrails for successful collaboration
  • Sharing creative examples of collaboration between Volunteer groups and Development operations

We look forward to seeing you April 15!

Congratulations to the 2023 Classic Award and Gold Awards of Excellence Recipients!

by Maggie Stehman and Loretta Davenport


Congratulations to the Volunteer Organizations receiving our Gold Awards of Excellence and our Classic Award. Showing creativity and innovation, the six award-winning projects feature a variety of creative approaches to support local orchestras, orchestral music, and their communities. Representing orchestras of all sizes, each of these projects inspired us with their originality, volunteer commitment, return on investment, and positive impact for their orchestra and their community.

Chosen from submissions received from volunteer organizations across the country, these projects will be featured during Volunteer constituency sessions at the League of American Orchestras National Conference in Houston, TX on June 6-8, 2024. Enjoy a preview of each project to get a glimpse of what you will learn from the presentations this June. We look forward to hearing details about these winning projects at the Conference and hope to meet you there!

Classic Award: Symphony League of Kansas City, MO

“Royal Gala, Let's Have a Ball"

Linda Stevens, President

A Musical Home Run! Discover the secrets to a sold-out, $1M+ event, honoring a city’s cultural history as a baseball and music town; featuring a rousing vintage supper club filled with a diverse, young crowd, decked-out in their choice of elegant attire!

Gold Award of Excellence: Charleston Symphony Orchestra League

"Ladders to Leaders"

Gail Corvette, President

The Charleston Symphony Orchestra League developed a multi-faceted strategy for engaging members to volunteer, energizing committees and creating a leadership pipeline. At this session, you'll hear what they planned and how it's working.

Gold Award of Excellence: Madison Symphony Orchestra League

"Parties of Note"

Barbara Berven, President

The Parties of Note highlighted 15 successful parties! Those parties involved activities and venues that appealed to a wide range of interests and featured well-known hosts, outdoor adventures, behind-the-scenes venues, musical entertainment and more.

Gold Award of Excellence: Santa Rosa Symphony League

"Festival of Masks"

Julia Wilkinson, President

Who would have thought that an inexpensive $1 paper maché mask could yield up to $250 when painted by an accomplished artist? We had our doubts when we embarked on the project in August 2022. But the results were spectacular: The Santa Rosa Symphony League partnered with local artists to create a silent but high-energy auction that brought Symphony attendees together for a concert of music, colorful masks and profit.

Gold Award of Excellence: Houston Symphony League

"Re-imagining Auctions: Houston Symphony Ball Auction 2023"

Mary Fusillo, President

Re-imagining Auctions; Houston Symphony Ball Auction 2023, how we changed the dynamics of acquiring auction items in a city filled with fundraising auctions through the use of strategic partnerships with our volunteers and their networks.

Gold Award of Excellence: Houston Symphony League

"Growing Membership 2022-2023: Focus on What Works"

Mary Fusillo, President

Hear how we revitalized our membership, focused on recruiting a diverse member group in a large diverse city, while keeping our members engaged and renewing their membership moving forward.

A Conversation with Darlene Clark, Volunteer Council member

Interviewed By Bruce Colquhoun

Bruce: Are you from Houston?

Darlene: Yes, I am a third generation Houstonian, which is rather rare in these parts. I am extremely excited to chair the Volunteer Constituency portion of the League of American Orchestras conference this summer in my hometown! What a lovely honor! I grew up on the Southeast side of Houston, graduated from South Houston High School, was a member of the National Honor Society, marched in the Mighty Trojan Marching Band and was a member of the South Houston High School Symphony Orchestra. In collaboration with the South Houston High School Choir, the Orchestra put in hours and hours of rehearsal and performed Broadway renditions of Fiddler on the Roof, Hello Dolly and Oklahoma during my time at South Houston. I received a Business Technology degree from the University of Houston.

Bruce: Tell me about your family.

Darlene: I am married to Edwin Friedrichs, who is one of the most well-known Civil Engineers in Houston. He works for Walter P Moore Engineering and was honored to be chosen Engineer of the Year for Houston in 2009. His children Austen Friedrichs and Lauren Pendleton have delighted us with four grandchildren.

Bruce: Are you retired? What was your area of work?

Darlene: Yes! I worked for 30 years for Southwestern Bell/AT&T depending on what year you are discussing. During that time, AT&T was forced to divest itself from its “Baby Bells”. Who at the time would have guessed that Southwestern Bell would eventually buy up most of those companies? I witnessed the end of telephone operators and White Pages and the rise of computers and cellular service.

Bruce: How did you get involved with the Houston Symphony? How long have you been involved?

Darlene: I’ve been a subscriber for around 20 years. Right after I retired, I noticed a small article in the Houston Symphony’s program that asked something along the lines of “How would you like to help the Symphony achieve their Education goals?” I ended up joining the Houston Symphony League, not knowing a soul. I quickly gravitated toward helping children learn about classical music via the Instrument Petting Zoo, Student Concerts and Family Concerts. I am a Past President of the Houston Symphony League (2016/17) and continue to support the Houston Symphony in their outreach to children from all of Houston’s varied communities.

Bruce: What is your favorite fundraiser?

Darlene: My husband and I joined the Houston Symphony’s Wine Dinner and Collector’s Auction Committee many years ago. We enjoy searching for elusive wines and spirits for the Wine Dinner Auction and have made many wonderful friends over the years in this endeavor. During the pandemic, Auction Chair Bob Weiner, along with my husband and I co-chaired a weekly Zoom wine education group with Auction Committee members, Houston Symphony staff, and musicians that we dubbed Wine 101. It still survives as an occasional social event.

Bruce: Do you have a favorite piece of classical music?

Darlene: I couldn’t begin to answer that because I add favorites every year after hearing the Houston Symphony perform them.

Bruce: Do you play an instrument?

Darlene: I started on the flute in the sixth grade and picked up the piccolo the following year. I started piano lessons after I retired. Learning bass clef was ridiculously difficult after only reading treble clef my whole life!

Bruce: Do you have any hobbies? What do you do in your leisure time?

Darlene: I have played flute and piccolo in the Gulf Coast Concert Band (which is exactly like a high school band with shall I say more “seasoned” players) since 1983. We have performed at Jones Hall, the Battleship Texas, Miller Outdoor Theater, for the Special Olympics, and numerous retirement communities in the Houston area. I have probably played Stars and Stripes more than anyone outside of the United States Army Band. I also play in a woodwind quintet with friends from GCCB.

Bruce: Do you have a favorite sports team?

Darlene: I am not much of a sports fan and mostly follow golf, tennis and high-end horse racing on TV. My bucket list includes a trip to the Kentucky Derby!

New Member Spotlight: Kent McNeil

By Florence McLean

James Kent McNeil, St. Louis Symphony Volunteer Association

Kent has been a member of the St. Louis Symphony Volunteer Association (SVA) for ten years and has served in various capacities including President and is currently the Chair of the Discovery Committee. This committee works with the orchestra staff and SVA leadership to recommend new and innovative activities and programs to enhance the SVA’s ability to conduct its mission while providing additional outlets for SVA members’ participation. During his term as President, he participated in various activities including the development of volunteer activities, created a Research and Analysis Data Team, launched a team to review the SVA bylaws, and worked with a former tech volunteer to implement a technology team resource for volunteers.

Kent is a retired banker and international banking consultant. He is a graduate of University of Virginia and Stonier Graduate School of Banking, Rutgers University. His banking experience includes various levels of responsibility from branch management and commercial lending to Senior Vice President of Sales and Marketing with responsibility for the training and marketing departments, retail merchandising, and seniors’ programs. As an international banking consultant, Kent traveled the world conducting training and developing programs.

In addition to the SVA, Kent is an active member of Grace United Methodist Church and the Landmarks Association of St. Louis. He enjoys playing bridge, cooking and reading.

Kent, welcome to the Volunteer Council. We are privileged to have you as a member and look forward to working with you.

Volunteer Council Toolbox

By Paula McReynolds, Waco Symphony Orchestra League

The Volunteer Council will soon be introducing a Volunteer Toolbox to assist volunteer organizations. The Volunteer Toolbox will include information and helpful ideas on volunteer recruitment and retention, navigating changes in volunteer leadership, and ways to enhance the volunteer experience. Keep an eye out for more information soon.

Sign up for League360

Join an online community of volunteers by signing up for League360, an online platform where you can network with your peers, ask questions and receive feedback from fellow volunteers in leagues of various sizes, connect with the League's Volunteer Council, and help us build a community of volunteer organizations across the country. League360 is a resource you will want to be part of!

To get started with League360 visit: Member Home - League360

  1. Use the same login as when you sign up for Conference
  2. If you need help with your login, email: member@americanorchestras.org

This FAQ page walks you through the site step by step with screenshots.


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)
  • Charlotte Lewis (New Orleans, LA)
  • Florence Mc Lean (Baltimore, MD)
  • Kent McNeil (St. Louis, MO)
  • 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
  • Mary Fusillo, 2024 Conference Liaison
  • Simon Woods, League of American Orchestras | President & CEO
Top Row: Laurie Skjerseth, Paula McReynolds, Charlotte Lewis. Second Row: Marena Gault, Bruce Colquhoun, Janet Cabot. Third Row: Kathy Leibrand, Darlene Clark, Maggie Stehman, Julie Brantley, Camille Williams, Irene Sohm. Bottom Row: Venise Stuart, Florence Mc Lean, Becky Odland. Not pictured: Loretta Davenport, Mary Fusillo, Kent McNeil, Becky Odland, Marylou Turner