News & Notes - February 2016

From the SVA President

Hold onto your hats! If the fall was busy, it had nothing on the upcoming month!

In the Education area, Picture the Music and Express the Music are in full swing, sorting, judging, cataloging and preparing for their award ceremonies. Throughout February, Instrument Playground, Powell Hall Tours and Education Concert Ambassadors will be supporting the Education and Family Concerts. And, of course, Boutique and Coffee Concert volunteers will be greeting and assisting patrons. Other Education area volunteers are supporting state-wide advocacy efforts with the legislature.

In Fundraising, Gypsy Caravan is accepting vendor contracts and fine-tuning logistics and the Four Season of Fashion committee is busy with inaugural year plans and all of the details that come with putting on a new event. The Friends Committee is also planning another event given the success it had in the fall.

Membership is working on further engaging SVA members, with a new member mentor program and a fabulous, stylish Winter Membership Meeting on Saturday, February 27.

I hope everyone is planning to join us at the Winter Membership Meeting on February 27 at The Zodiac Room. I was delighted that 135 members were able attend last month’s Winter Heat, up from 80 attendees the prior year! The energy level was amazing with members thoroughly enjoying each other’s company and the beautiful program featuring Roger Kaza, Principal Horn. The upcoming Winter Membership Meeting offers another opportunity for to get together and enjoy good food and a terrific program, this time featuring Miran Halen, talented soprano, stylish beauty and chair of our new Four Seasons of Fashion fundraiser. We have many new members to get to know better as well as reconnect with one another. Plus, the new KeyNotes will be available for all attending, and it is beautiful.

As you can see, there is a lot going on. One recurring theme is that most committees are full, busy and ready to welcome new committee members to keep the good work going and growing. Please do take a look at the various volunteer opportunities mentioned and consider signing up for something new to you.

Last, I hope that people have been able to keep up with some of the reviews from the STL Symphony’s California tour. Not surprisingly, our STL Symphony hit its mark and received glowing reviews from California music critics. Selfishly, it is good to have them back home where we can all enjoy their artistry.


Janice Seele
St. Louis Symphony Volunteer Association
c: 714-642-3376


New Members
We are delighted to welcome new member John Huber to the SVA. John is a naval retiree and is a percussionist himself. The Winter Membership Meeting will be a perfect opportunity for you to get to know some of our very interesting new members.

One & Done
One & Done opportunities present a wonderful way to assist the STL Symphony in a variety of ways on dates that members find convenient. If you are on the One & Done Committee but haven’t had a chance to take on a One & Done activity, be on the watch for several that will be coming your way shortly. You’ll be able to work with—and get to know—a small group of other SVA members and STL Symphony staff as well. Upcoming opportunities include ushering for a community concert at the Piper Palm House and a new “field test” Bus Ambassador program, among others. 

The Bus Ambassador program exemplifies how the SVA can assist the STL Symphony in developing new programs. To encourage new patrons to attend concerts, the STL Symphony is testing a new program in which patrons can board the "Symphony Shuttle" at the St. Louis County Library Headquarters that takes them to Powell Hall. SVA members will be on hand for these “test runs” to take tickets, welcome people on board, answer questions and act as general ambassadors for the STL Symphony. After enjoying the concert, these Bus Ambassadors will accompany bus guests back to the St. Louis County Library. After a few of these events, the STL Symphony will determine whether this type of service is an effective audience-builder, and perhaps make it a permanent addition. SVA volunteers are what allow this valuable type of testing to take place.

Winter Membership Meeting
Make your reservation now for our Winter Membership Meeting to be held on Saturday, February 27 at 10:00am. This year's event features a delicious and elegant brunch buffet at The Zodiac Room at Neiman Marcus. Our program for the morning features the beautiful and talented Miran Halen, soprano, who also just happens to be the chair and inspiration behind the upcoming Four Seasons of Fashion event! The meeting is scheduled to conclude at 12:30pm, but The Zodiac Room has been reserved through 2:00pm to allow for as much post-meeting mingling as you wish—and what a gorgeous place to mingle on a cold winter day! Reservations are $32/person. 

The life of the SVA is often best captured in photos. Each issue of News & NotesKeyNotes, our Membership Directory and other publications feature photographs that beyond words, speak to the vibrancy and life of the organization, our members and our mission. These photographs are taken by a team of SVA Photography Committee members who are scheduled to cover specific events. With the wide number of SVA activities taking place, this committee is seeking new members. Photographers are scheduled according to their availability. If you enjoy photography and would like to join this committee, please contact Communications Chair Anne Carman. The SVA thanks you—beyond words.


Picture the Music
Picture the Music judging day took place on Tuesday, February 9, in the 4th floor ballroom at the Centene Center. A panel of seven judges had the difficult task of selecting the 100 finalists and top award winners from the hundreds of entries received. The committee was honored to again have an impressive and skilled set of judges serving in this capacity, including: Olivia Lahs-Gonzales, Director, Sheldon Art Gallery; Ron Klemm, Retired Manager,; Louis Lankford, UMSL Art Department; Margaret Peeno, Retired Elementary Educator, UMSL Teacher-Trainer; Billie Phillips, Retired Arts Supervisor, St. Louis Public Schools; Solomon Thurman, Painter/Gallery Owner; and Betsy Zimbalist, Retired Art Educator, Museum Docent.  The judges listened to the music used as inspiration for the artwork, Mendelssohn’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, while they reviewed the art so they could determine which pieces were not only well crafted, but also best interpreted the music. Committee members were on hand to facilitate the judging and cataloging process, a full and exciting day in which volunteers have the rewarding opportunity to see all of the creative entries and secretly root for their favorites.

The committee is now busy preparing to invite 100 finalists, their families and teachers to the Picture the Music Awards Ceremony on Thursday, March 3, at Powell Hall. The work of the 100 finalists will be displayed in the lobby of Powell Hall beginning March 3 and stay in place through the Family Concert on Sunday, March 13, after which volunteers will move the display to several sites across the St. Louis area throughout the spring. 

Tom Sherman, art teacher at Daniel Boone, whose classes participated this year, wrote Education Vice President Margaret Lahrmann with the following recollection of his own Picture the Music experience as a child:

“As an art student I always found the assignment very challenging. For the most part, art class was something that was usually very easy for me. I was great at following directions, controlling art media, and if I didn't have any ideas it was always easy for me to copy the teacher samples. I struggled with Picture the Music because it seemed to level the playing field. Copying a sample wasn't an option. It was hard work.

When I was in 2nd or 3rd grade my sister's work was chosen for a blue ribbon award. I remember getting to go to the awards ceremony. My sisters and I were all dressed very nice and as we went through the doors of Powell Hall our best behavior was expected. Her painting still hangs in my parents' house and I think still has the blue ribbon in the corner of the frame.

As a teacher I understand now the difference between my sister's artistic abilities and my own. I had strong skills, so art projects that were more like exercises were easy for me. Picture the Music is not an exercise, but an authentic art making experience. My students need to know that skills are valuable, but their ideas are most important. Picture the Music helps me to teach the importance of their beautiful and creative ideas.”

Recollections such as this, and other teachers’ anecdotes about current student experiences, truly reinforce the benefits provided by the program and deepen the volunteers’ love for and satisfaction with their own participation with Picture the Music. 

Express the Music
The reading day for Express the Music will take place at Centene on Saturday, February 20, from 9:00am-2:00pm, during which entries are read and screened by volunteers to choose the writings that best interpret the selection from Mendelssohn’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Top-ranked writings will be sent to the judges, all professionals in the English and writing fields, for the final selection of 50 award winners who will be invited to the Express the Music Award Ceremony at Powell Hall on Wednesday, April 13, along with their families and teachers.   

The Express the Music Committee is looking for additional volunteer readers. Please contact Chair Cecelia Webber if you are available to be a volunteer reader on February 20.  No prior experience is necessary, and volunteers can expect to spend an enjoyable morning of reading in the SVA office with other volunteers.

Education Concert Ambassadors
Education Concert Ambassadors will be supporting several upcoming Education Concerts, helping to keep students safe as they leave the buses and enter Powell Hall; February 9, 10 and 11, featuring Tchaikovsky's Waltz from Sleeping Beauty, Grieg's In the Hall of the Mountain King and selections from Beethoven's Fifth and Ninth Symphonies; and February 23 and 24, featuring performers from Shakespeare Festival St. Louis and music from Mendelssohn's A Midsummer Night's Dream.

Additional volunteers are always welcome and needed, particularly since Education Concert dates fall close together. Please contact Team Leader Marilyn Gordan at 314-966-4452 if you can assist.

Instrument Playground
Instrument Playground will again support upcoming Family Concerts on February 21, March 13 and April 17, as well as the Tiny Tunes Concert on March 1, setting up in the lobby of Powell Hall and giving children hands-on exposure to the instruments they will hear in concert.

Instrument Playground has increased its membership with a number of new volunteers, but with the positive response to the program generating additional opportunities, they could always use more. Those interested should email

Powell Hall Tours
Volunteers will lead students from 16 schools, plus several home school students, through Powell Hall in conjunction with Education Concerts between February 9 and February 24, filling them in on fun details and enhancing their overall Powell Hall experience. Tour guides receive binders of materials about Powell Hall, and tailor the material they share with the group. Throughout the year, SVA tour guides are called upon to lead a wide variety of age groups on a journey through the hall and history of the STL Symphony, including school age children and donors, creating special memories for each. Those interested in joining the ranks of Powell Hall tour guides are encouraged to contact Team Leader Alan Fiddleman.

On Wednesday, February 10, a team of six SVA members will join Maureen Byrne, Director of Community Programs; Kate Poss-Morency, Senior Director, Corporate Philanthropy; and Adam Crane, Vice President for External Affairs; to advocate for funding of the arts to be included in the state budget. Patty Kaplan has taken the lead on scheduling appointments with key legislators during this year’s Citizen’s Day for the Arts, including those on the important Senate and House Appropriations Committees. With Patty’s diligence, appointments with over 36 legislators were procured. Importantly, each member of the team will be armed with not only information about the importance of the arts to the public—and Missouri’s economy—but also the number of events the STL Symphony has taken part in within each legislator’s district. With a tight budget, this type of personal advocacy and targeted information is critical to ensure an adequate allocation of funding. Maureen Byrne developed an informative packet of materials for STL Symphony representatives to share with legislators. STL Symphony representatives will join other arts groups from across the state for an early morning briefing on the state of arts funding prior to heading into their scheduled appointments. It is a busy and important day.

 As background for Missouri’s own interesting funding mechanism for the arts:

  • Missouri’s arts funding is tied to a special non-resident professional athletes and entertainers tax. 
  • By statute, 60% of these dollars should be appropriated to the arts; however, it is up to the legislators to appropriate the specific amount. 
  • The dollars are placed into an account called the Cultural Trust, from which money is distributed to the arts through the Missouri Arts Council.
  • The Missouri Arts Council determines which specific programs and organization receive funding, along with setting the funding amount. 
  • In reality, the highest level ever appropriated to the arts is 50% and the percentage has generally been far lower, with the legislature using these funds to plug other areas in the budget.
    • This tax generated $42 million last year.
    • The Missouri Arts Council is receiving $4.8 million, barely over 10% of the taxes collected.
    • The result is that the Cultural Trust, the fund from which the Missouri Arts Council makes its funding grants to arts organizations, is nearly depleted.

The governor has recommended an increase of $1.24 million to the $4.8 million Missouri Arts Council appropriation in order to build back the Cultural Trust. The Advocacy team will visit these key legislators in order to ask for their support of the governor’s recommendation, lending passion, pinpointed information and personal stories to the appeals.

Following Citizen’s Day, the SVA will follow up via a letter-writing campaign.  Legislators do pay attention when individual constituents take the time to make their views known. If you are able to take part in the letter-writing follow-up, please contact Janice Seele. This is a meaningful volunteer opportunity through which members can make a real difference from their own homes and within their own schedule.


Fashion Show
With a chamber concert interwoven with a haute couture fashion show, the Four Seasons of Fashion fundraiser on Monday, April 4, at Powell Hall will excite attendees with timeless music, vintage fashion and glamour. Invitations to the event will be mailed in late February, with single tickets to the event offered at $125 for a full evening of food and entertainment. Proceeds will benefit the STL Symphony and its music education and community programs.

The steering committee has been working on details for the evening and many volunteers will be needed to help stage the event on April 4, from front line greeters to backstage dressers and many positions in between. Mark April 4 on your calendar and get ready for an enchanted evening.

Gypsy Caravan
The Gypsy Caravan vendor contract site is up and running, and vendor contracts have begun pouring in. The committee is actively looking for new and unique vendors who will provide variety and excitement to the mix. If you know of a vendor who might be interested in participating, please forward contact information to Co-Chairs Kent and Jane McNeil.

The steering committee is hard at work putting details into place, and will need all of you to make the event happen on Memorial Day. Please save a portion of your day Sunday, May 29, and/or Monday, May 30, to volunteer to make this year’s Gypsy Caravan the best yet.

Following the success of last fall’s thank-a-thon, another is planned for Friday, March 4. Volunteers will gather at Centene and after a bit of mingling time, will call to simply thank Friends of the Symphony level donors for their support. Last fall’s event resulted in a number of very satisfying phone conversations for our volunteers—and a couple of wonderful new SVA members!

STL Symphony Free Community Events

The following are free concerts taking place throughout the area over the next couple of months. Click here for more information about these concerts and to view the full schedule. These concerts provide great exposure for our orchestra, enriching the community and helping with audience development. Please plan to attend and share the information with others who could become future subscribers

Friday, February 19, 2016 at 7:30pm
Symphony in Your College: The Russel E. and Fern M. Hettenhausen Center for the Arts at McKendree University
Lebanon, IL

Tuesday, February 23, 2016 at 7:00pm
Symphony Tuesdays in Tower Grove Park

Wednesday, March 2, 2016 at 7:00pm
On Stage at Powell

Friday, March 4, 2016 at 7:30pm
Symphony Where You Worship: Symphony Shabbat at Temple Emanuel

SVA Office Location and Directions

Centene Center for Arts and Education
3547 Olive St., Suite 370
St. Louis, MO 63103
STL Symphony Office Hours: 9:00am-5:00pm
Associate Director, Volunteer Programs, Office Hours: Mon-Thurs, 10:00am-3:00pm

Upcoming Events

Gypsy Caravan Steering Committee Meeting
Tue, Feb 16, 4:30-6:30pm
Home of Kent and Jane McNeil

Coffee Concert
Fri, Feb 19, 10:30am
Powell Hall

Express the Music Reading Day
Sat, Feb 20, 9am-2pm
SVA Office

Instrument Playground
Sun, Feb 21, 3pm
Powell Hall

Winter Membership Meeting
Sat, Feb 27, 10am-12:30pm
The Zodiac Room

SVA Executive Committee Meeting
Wed, Mar 2, 10am-1pm
SVA Office

Fri, Mar 4, 10am-noon
SVA Office


total volunteer hours
contributed during the 2015/16 season (as of 1/31/16)