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Wednesday, January 23 , 2019, 12:49 pm | Fair 61º

 
 
 
 

Santa Maria Philharmonic Society Faces the Music with Call for More Volunteers

Opportunities abound for those wanting to help keep symphony flourishing in Santa Maria Valley

Conductor Greg Magie and the Santa Maria Philharmonic Society are recognized during a December Yuletide Brass performance at First United Methodist Church of Santa Maria. Click to view larger
Conductor Greg Magie and the Santa Maria Philharmonic Society are recognized during a December Yuletide Brass performance at First United Methodist Church of Santa Maria. (Santa Maria Philharmonic Society photo)

[Noozhawk’s note: Third in a series sponsored by the Hutton Parker Foundation. Click here for the first article, and click here for the second.]

Santa Barbara County is home to hundreds of nonprofit organizations varying in description from homeowners associations to youth organizations, groups dedicated to the arts and those committed to ending homelessness and hunger.

All of them depend upon volunteers, citizens who carve out time from their daily lives to support the programs they adore.

“It’s important, somewhere along the line, if we want to enjoy these wonderful, cultural things, that we get involved,” said Linda Barth, board secretary for the Santa Maria Philharmonic Society.​

“If we want to have a society where we’re rich with this kind of thing for our children, we have to step up and make these things happen. We can’t just be a passive audience — whether it’s our churches, music, choirs, just saying, ‘Gee, isn’t it nice someone is making this happen.’”

Barth is among a handful of volunteers who keep Santa Maria Valley’s 90-year tradition of symphonic performances running.

“If I have a skill I can contribute, and it helps in any way, I have to do it because I’ve been to many concerts and I enjoy the music so much,” she told Noozhawk.

“I have to pay it back and pay it forward to make sure there’s a philharmonic for others to listen to and say, ‘Wow! I can’t believe in Santa Maria we have this!’”

Since its inception in 1925, the philharmonic society has depended on volunteers. With so many organizations, the workplace, family obligations and other priorities vying for volunteers’ times, musicians have found themselves increasingly stepping up to fulfill the needs of the organization, from accounting to advertising, securing performance venues to providing refreshments for guests.

“We don’t have enough volunteers,” said Lynne Garrett, a Santa Maria Philharmonic board member and its principal violinist. “We need help. We’re a damned hard-working board. We all serve in dual roles.”

Volunteer ushers welcome guests to a December performance of the Santa Maria Philharmonic Society at First United Methodist Church of Santa Maria. Click to view larger
Volunteer ushers welcome guests to a December performance of the Santa Maria Philharmonic Society at First United Methodist Church of Santa Maria. (Santa Maria Philharmonic Society photo)

She says every performance requires more work behind the scenes than most people realize: connecting with churches to arrange performance times; taking care of insurance policies; running payroll; designing programs; picking up programs from printers and distributing them to audience members; preparing food; setting up chairs; and cleaning up after each performance.

“People often don’t realize all the possible ways they can volunteer to help,” Barth noted.

Garrett listed a number of them.

“We could use someone to do publicity, advertising, marketing, someone to do development,” she said. “We have no one out there networking with businesses and keeping support coming from those entities. We need someone to speak at service clubs.”

Barth is an anomaly among volunteers: she telecommutes from her home in Los Angeles to support her hometown symphony. She follows in the footsteps of her parents — particularly her father, Kingston George — who have been longtime volunteers and supporters of the Santa Maria Philharmonic Society.

A volunteer distributes brochures and programs for the Santa Maria Philharmonic Society. Click to view larger
A volunteer distributes brochures and programs for the Santa Maria Philharmonic Society. (Santa Maria Philharmonic Society photo)

She began her service with simple posts to social media. Then came graphic design work and newsletter editing.

“You don’t have to be a classical music expert to make graphics,” she said.

Such is the case for Dennis Apel, a longtime philharmonic society fan who volunteers with his wife, Tensie Hernandez, and their children, Rozella and Thomas. Together, the family hangs posters advertising upcoming performances, works as ushers for performances and serves food as needed.

“I don’t know that much about composers and period and all those things,” Apel said. “When I go, it’s for the pure enjoyment of the performance. We just want to be helpful.

“Everyone’s really busy. We have teens; they’re busy with school. All they need is a little of our time, so we’re very happy to give to them.”

The Moxie Café in Santa Maria is among the restaurants that have provided meals for musicians performing at Santa Maria Philharmonic Society concerts. Click to view larger
The Moxie Café in Santa Maria is among the restaurants that have provided meals for musicians performing at Santa Maria Philharmonic Society concerts. (Santa Maria Philharmonic Society photo)

Barbara Strasbaugh organizes all the food and donations for receptions. Diane Borad-Mirken dedicates two months each year to driving the society’s music van from school to school to make sure every area third-grade student has an opportunity to get his or her mitts on real instruments. Evy Dykema was a major volunteer for many years and continues to serve with the music van.

“I used to be able to get seven or eight people for every single school visit, but it’s become harder and harder to find volunteers,” said Diane Borad-Mirken, a retired teacher who has volunteered with the music van for 15 years.

“Now I have a list of 30 people, and it’s hard to get three of them to come out with any regularity.”

Gina Oh juggles raising her own children and managing a home with organizing the society’s school music program. That program has expanded from its music van program to include two professional symphonic performances per year for some 2,000 North County students.

“We created this volunteer guild, but we don’t have enough people to fill it,” Oh said. “It’s kind of sad.

“We need people to help make signs for the schools when they come to Peter & The Wolf and The Nutcracker. We need people bringing refreshments for orchestra members, people to line up the kids, help with traffic in and out of the parking lot, contacting schools, sending study guides, writing grants.”

Thanks to the Santa Maria Philharmonic Society’s music van, area third-graders have a chance to play musical instruments under the care of volunteers. Click to view larger
Thanks to the Santa Maria Philharmonic Society’s music van, area third-graders have a chance to play musical instruments under the care of volunteers. (Santa Maria Philharmonic Society photo)

Oh has reached out to Santa Maria Valley service organizations that have committed some resources, but the challenge remains.

“It’s so hard to enlist people,” she said. “It’s hard to gather volunteers. I’m having a very difficult time with it.”

Without volunteers, programs like the Santa Maria Philharmonic Society are stuck.

“We’ve considered developing a youth orchestra, but we don’t have the manpower,” Oh said. “We don’t have volunteers who will help put on these programs.

“I could get a million grants, but then if someone doesn’t help me, then I’m doing everything from beginning to end.”

Click here for more information for the Santa Maria Philharmonic Society, its upcoming performances or to volunteer. Click here to make an online donation.

Noozhawk contributing writer Jennifer Best can be reached at [email protected]. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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