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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.

Fall Edition 2023

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

In This Issue

President's Message, including the 60th Anniversary of the Volunteer Council

Let's Talk: A Conversation with Our President

Destination Houston! League National Conference

Strategic Conversations, The Power of Discussing Volunteer Matters

Meet Our Newest Members

Quick Wins for Volunteers Through Social Media

Orchestras Advocate for NEA funding

Connect with Volunteers in Orchestras Across the Country! Join League360

Support the League's Annual Fund

Membership Opportunities

2023-2024 League Volunteer Council

President's Message

by Laurie Skjerseth, President, Volunteer Council 2023-2024

I look forward to crisp fall days, the beautiful smell of autumn, the changing of the leaves into an array of amazing colors, hot apple cider and everything pumpkin spice!!! This year I have the privilege and look forward to leading the Volunteer Council. I would like to thank our Immediate Past President, Janet Cabot, for her outstanding leadership.

We are always going forward to help volunteer organizations. We recently hosted our 4-session series, Strategic Conversations, for Presidents and Presidents-elect of their volunteer groups. This fall we had 25 registrants from 17 states and focused our discussions on membership, fundraising, strategic planning, and developing leaders.

Under the outstanding leadership of our Conference Chair, Darlene Clark, we are busy planning the volunteer track for the League of American Orchestras Conference, which will take place June 5-8, 2024, in Houston. In the past weeks, I have been able to read through the numerous Gold Award submissions from all over the country. I am so impressed with the creativity of orchestra volunteers. I invite you to join volunteers from across the nation as we showcase the Gold Award winners at the League's Conference in Houston. It will be a wonderful opportunity to learn and network.

I also look forward as the Volunteer Council will soon celebrate its 60th Anniversary. The Volunteer Council was formed in 1964, while this year marks the 79th year for the League of American Orchestras, which was founded in 1942. It is a remarkable achievement and a testament to the invaluable leadership the Volunteer Council has provided to the League and countless volunteer associations in orchestras across the country. We will be celebrating this milestone anniversary in Houston, and would love to see you there!

I would also like to extend a heartfelt thank you on behalf of the Volunteer Council and the League to those in this volunteer community who generously showed their support of the League and its work on behalf our orchestras with a charitable contribution this past year. Your gifts have enabled the League to continue to provide valuable and timely resources to the orchestra field.

It is a pleasure to serve with the talented members of the Volunteer Council and I look forward to learning from your experiences as well.

Let's Talk: A Conversation with Our President

by Kathy Leibrand, Volunteer Notes Editor

I interviewed Laurie and learned a lot about her! I'm happy to share our conversation.

Tell us about your childhood and education.

Laurie: I grew up in Glencoe, Minnesota on a mink ranch with my parents, two sisters and a brother. After attending college in Iowa, I graduated with a Music Education degree in voice and piano. My work experience includes teaching preschool through 12th grade and college level. My continued education included attending the University of Iowa receiving a Master of Fine Arts in Arts Management.

And your Family?

Laurie: I married Nathan, a mechanical engineer with John Deere (now retired). We have two children, Erik, a United Airlines pilot and Dr. Amy, a Professor at the University of Liverpool in England as Lecturer in Audiovisual Media. Our lives have taken us to Illinois, Wisconsin, Tennessee, and Iowa. Currently, Nathan and I are residents of Venice, Florida and spend the summers in Denver, Colorado.

You have lived in so many different cities. Where have you been involved as a symphony volunteer and to what capacity?

Laurie: The Quad Cities is a cluster of communities along the Mississippi River and home to the Quad City Symphony. This is where I spent my years as a volunteer, beginning in 1983. The organization is currently called the Volunteers for the Symphony or VfS. I became a staff member in 1988 as the Education Assistant but continued as a volunteer. I served two times as President of Junior Board and VfS. When we returned to Iowa in the early 2000's, I saw a need and implemented an orchestral program for our local school district. And it’s still going strong today!

What has been one of your most memorable volunteer projects?

Laurie: In 2015 the Volunteers of the Symphony created a project that was to raise community awareness for our symphony’s 100th season. This involved two purposes; build a relationship between the musical and visual arts and raise funds in support of music education programs. We enlisted 100 artists that would decorate 100 cellos with 100 sponsors to raise $100,000. A concert featuring Yo-Yo Ma was the icing on the cake for the event called “100 Years, 100 Cellos”. Our symphony had the honor of presenting in Baltimore, Maryland for the 2016, 71st Conference. A few years later in 2018 I joined Volunteer Council and am now in my sixth year serving as President.

As President, what do you see as the future of the Volunteer Council?

Laurie: I imagine that the Volunteer Council will continue to be committed to the ongoing education of its members to meet the current and future needs of the volunteer associations in support of their orchestras. Our mission is to lead, advocate for and champion volunteer organizations in their efforts to support their orchestras’ community outreach and civic partnerships. May we all continue to advance the experience of orchestral music in our community and beyond.

Left: Laurie and Nathan Skjerseth. Center: Laurie with YoYo Ma. Right: Laurie with her family.

Destination Houston! League National Conference

June 5-8, 2024

By Darlene Clark, Conference Chair

I am excited to announce that the Houston Symphony is hosting the League of American Orchestras conference at the Marriott Marquis hotel in downtown Houston on June 6-8, 2024. I am honored to serve as chair of the volunteer constituency portion of this conference. We will be welcoming volunteers from all over the country to the conference. We will spotlight award-winning volunteer projects, listen to nationally known speakers, network with the volunteer community, have the opportunity to attend the June 7 Houston Symphony Richard Strauss’ Salome in Concert with Juraj Valcuha as conductor, and attend the Tune-Up party afterwards.

The conference will take place at the Marriott Marquis hotel in downtown Houston. This is the hotel with the Texas-shaped Lazy River Pool on the roof! From now until January 9, volunteers can register for $415. Take advantage of this deeply discounted rate by registering early!

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

Strategic Conversations, The Power of Discussing Volunteer Matters

by Laurie Skjerseth

Strategic Conversations is a series of four zoom calls involving Presidents and Presidents-Elect of guilds/leagues across the country. Seventeen states and twenty orchestras were represented this past September and October with a record number of 25 registrants. They also represented 7 group levels established by the League! It is amazing that all groups have the same issues to varying degrees. We all learn each other’s successes and challenges. With the magic of zoom we were able to divide into five break-out rooms for discussion.

Topics discussed included membership, strategic planning, mentoring, leadership development, and fundraising. Plans are underway to reunite with the registrants in mid-January and late March/early April.

Each session was designed for participants to learn from each other and find new ways to address and potentially solve problems that we all face in our member organizations. Minutes of these meetings are available here. We hope that you’ll be able to join us next fall as we continue this yearly series of Strategic Conversations.

Meet Our Newest Members

By Loretta Davenport

Julie Brantley, Richmond Symphony League

Left: Julie Brantley Right: Venise Stuart

Julie joins the Volunteer Council through her affiliation with the Richmond Symphony League. Since joining the League in 2010, she has served in roles including President, Assistant Treasurer, Web Development Coordinator, and Chair of the Designer Show House. We are excited that she has decided to share her skills and bring her dedication to service to the Council.

Julie is a graduate of the School of Mortgage Banking and has enjoyed a distinguished career in the field of mortgage lending. She has worked with major banking institutions and owned her own LLC, JGB Consulting, providing service in the Mortgage Lending, Process Management or Origination field. She retired in 2015.

In addition to the Richmond Symphony League, Julie volunteers with the Richmond Wine Society and the New Virginians. She is married and has two sons and two grandchildren. She lists among her interests, “learning about anything, playing the game of golf, reading, and being involved in areas where I can contribute.”

Venise Stuart, AMSOV Representative

Venise is the current Vice President and Member Outreach Director of AMSOV, the Association of Major Symphony Orchestra Volunteers. She joins the Volunteer Council as our AMSOV liaison. Hailing from Texas, she is a graduate of the University of Texas at Dallas, where she received a Bachelor of Science degree in Business and Public Administration. After a brief career in banking, Venise has devoted her energy and talents to her family and volunteerism.

Highlights of Venise's distinguished record of volunteer service in the Dallas area include having served as Ball Chairman for the Women’s Guild of United Cerebral Palsy; President of the Junior Group of the Dallas Symphony Orchestra; and President of the Women’s Council of the Dallas Arboretum. In 2021-22, as President of the Dallas Symphony Orchestra League, she raised over $1.5 million which was directed towards education and community projects. This past September she served as the luncheon chairman for Kidney Texas, and currently sits on the boards of AMSOV, LAO and TASO. She will be chairing the TASO Juanita Miller Concerto Competition in January 2024.

Venise is married to Larry Stuart and has a son, Marcus Stephen, and two stepsons. When not volunteering, she enjoys traveling, cooking, reading, playing tennis, and watching spectator sports, particularly ice hockey.

Quick Wins for the Volunteers Through Social Media

by Janet Cabot and Paula McReynolds

Chances are that your volunteer organization has a Facebook page. While having a page is a good start, making the most of it is even better. Start by evaluating your page's status with a few key questions:

  • When was your last post?
  • How many posts do you typically share each month?
  • Do your posts receive many likes?
  • Do you have a social media calendar for regular updates?

If your responses are along the lines of "last week," "4-5 times a month," "lots," and "yes, we do," then you're doing great—keep it up! However, if your answers sound more like "over a month ago," "not often," "not many," and "what is a social media calendar?" then it might be time to elevate your social media game.

On Facebook, "engagement" and "content" are the power duo. Engagement is crucial—it's like the prime location in real estate for your Facebook presence. More frequent posts mean more engagement with your followers, building connections and keeping people coming back. Imagine the impact of a month-old post on your page. Consider assigning someone from your Marketing, Membership, or Communications committee to be the Facebook engagement lead.

Aiming for a new post each week is ideal, but if that's a bit much for volunteers, no worries! Create a social media calendar to plan ahead. Collect a list of events, activities, and opportunities from your guild and orchestra to ensure at least 4-5 posts each month. Make sure to try and include photos with your posts and ask people to take pictures at an event to use for future posts. Another effective strategy is to prepare and schedule posts in advance.

Content is king on Facebook. Your followers want updates on your activities and your volunteer group, but variety is also key. Share stories or videos related to symphony orchestras, music education, or upcoming performances. A picture is worth a thousand words, so include visuals with every post. Make your Facebook page a go-to place for engaging and interesting content. And don’t forget to link your Facebook page to Instagram. This expands your social media reach and attracts followers who might prefer Instagram over Facebook.

To maximize your Facebook presence, consider these tips:

  • Schedule Posts: Use Facebook's scheduling feature to plan posts ahead.
  • Create Facebook Events: This is your event invitation on Facebook, providing essential details and linking back to your website.
  • Prepare a social media Calendar: Plan posts based on your events and activities to ensure a steady flow of content
  • Be "Liked": Identify posts with the most engagement and replicate what works.
  • Consult a Marketer: Your orchestra's marketing staff can offer valuable insights into social media best practices.
  • Make New Friends: Encourage members to follow your page and include the Facebook logo in your communications.
  • Use QR Codes for Events: Create QR codes in your posts to direct readers to more information effortlessly.

Having a dynamic and engaging Facebook presence should be an integral part of your overall communication and marketing strategy. By doing so you can generate opportunities to cultivate volunteers for your guild and engage members to look at your page on a regular basis for new and interesting content.

Orchestras Advocate for NEA funding

In November, the U.S. House of Representatives voted against amendments to eliminate funding for the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) during consideration of the FY24 Interior appropriations bill. The amendment to defund the NEA failed by a vote of 292 to 129, demonstrating bipartisan support for direct federal funding for the arts and culture. Thank you to the many orchestras that have been weighing in with Congress over the past several weeks in anticipation of this important recorded vote — and a very special thanks to orchestras in specific Congressional districts that partnered with the League to give an extra push for support yesterday. Your advocacy, in partnership with action across the entire arts sector, is essential in reminding Congress how important federal support for the arts is in every single Congressional district, whether through direct grants to orchestras, partnerships with state arts agencies, or federal research and programmatic initiatives.

Connect with Volunteers in Orchestras Across the Country! Join League360

The League has recently launched a new version of League360, a platform to connect with others in the orchestra community, pose questions to your peers, and share solutions to common problems. Join the Volunteer page today! Participation is free - volunteers receive their member benefits through their parent orchestra. Click here to get started with League360. It is free to create a log in. If you need assistance resetting your password or seeing up an account, email member@americanorchestras.org or reach out to Melanie Hausmann, mhausmann@americanorchestras.org.

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

Support the League's Annual Fund

We are excited to announce that the League has received a year-end challenge gift match thanks to the generosity of The Julian Family Foundation. New gifts or gift increases received or pledged by December 31 will be matched dollar-for-dollar, up to $75,000. This is a great opportunity to amplify your impact for the League and the orchestral field. Your support fuels our ability to help orchestras create sustainable futures so that all can experience the beauty of orchestral music. Help us secure this match by making your gift today!

Membership Opportunities

By Laurie Skjerseth

The Volunteer Council is made up of recognized volunteer leaders who have demonstrated outstanding support for their orchestras and who are committed to the goals of the League of American Orchestras. As a Volunteer Council member, one uses her/his leadership to provide representation, support, and professional development to fellow volunteers throughout the country.

If you are interested in learning more about joining the Volunteer Council, please contact Florence McLean at mcleanf@manjoeins.comcastbiz.net


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
  • 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