February, 2023

The SVA’s News and Notes is a quarterly publication that reviews recent accomplishments and provides a preview of activities to come. Comments and suggestions are welcome at SVACommunications@slso.org.

Notes from the President

Who could not be moved by the exciting and joy-filled holiday season celebrated at Powell Hall? Whether you served at or attended the special concerts, ranging from such diverse seasonal treats as the IN UNISON Chorus, Handel’s Messiah, the Mercy Holiday Celebration at Powell Hall and Lindenwood University, Elf in Concert, and the effervescent grand finale, sparkling with Stephanie Childress at the podium on New Year’s Eve, there was something for everyone. It seemed that my second home in December was Powell Hall, and one of the gifts I received from volunteering each week was the opportunity to see many of you there, too. What a great way to get into the holiday spirit!

Following that spirit, the new year kicked off with a party hosted by the SLSO in celebration of our impressive volunteer hour total for the year. It was a true delight to see one hundred of you at our annual Winter Heat. President and CEO Marie-Hélène Bernard generated excitement among those attending the event as she resented plans for Powell Hall’s renovation and expansion. As the SLSO gets closer to breaking ground on this ambitious project, I’m confident that the collaboration between the SLSO staff, the musicians, and the SVA will be extensive as we prepare to be out of our home during the renovation. This is an exciting time to be a supporter of the SLSO, and our enthusiasm and passion for the orchestra will add to the success of the project. If you haven’t already done so, please check out the Powell Hall webpage, recently updated with renderings of the completed project..

We are looking forward to using our skills in creating inventive ways to welcome our patrons to new venues. While we don’t know what to expect, I do know that all of you will be up to the challenge, and will approach it with heart and dedication. We have had a banner year with new members joining us, so please welcome them to your teams and build on the excitement and fresh perspectives they bring as new volunteers. We will show them how to help our guests find their way to each new concert hall, assuring them that they will continue to have a great time wherever the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra performs.

Our dedication and commitment have certainly been recognized by the League of American Orchestras, for the second time choosing our SVA to receive its Gold Award of Excellence. This is such an outstanding honor considering the number and quality of orchestras and volunteers across this country! We now have a unique opportunity to show them how a top notch volunteer association adapts to the multiple transitions the expansion project will bring, all without skipping a beat in how we support our orchestra and staff as they move out of their home for at least the next season.

Kent McNeil

Unitey Kull

Feature Article: Get to Know Unitey Kull

Unitey Kull is the SLSO’s new VP of Marketing and Audience Experience. We asked her to tell us a bit about her history with the SLSO and the goals she seeks to achieve in her new position.

I have worked in the arts my entire career, starting in 2003 at the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs. My job managing grants for artists and arts organizations was a bird’s eye view of a thriving community. I attended concerts, plays, gallery openings, poetry readings, experimental performances, and all kinds of other cultural events throughout the city. The experience inspired me to get an MBA (my undergraduate degree was in visual arts) to explore the business side of the arts.

After two years in business school in Washington, D.C., I moved to New York and started consulting. Within a few months, I became the interim managing director, and soon executive director, of the Manhattan New Music Project, a nonprofit performing and arts education organization with deep roots in New York City schools. It was an entrepreneurial endeavor. The founder, experimental jazz guitarist and composer Paul Nash, had died a few years earlier. I had to overhaul and build from scratch almost everything, from marketing and fundraising to accounting, HR, and IT, while focusing on staff and board development, programming, and strategic planning. Amazingly, we were able to secure a five-year, $5 million federal innovation grant, which was truly transformational. During this time, I became engaged to an academic who joined the faculty at Washington University in St. Louis. 

Arriving in St. Louis in 2011, I got to know the arts community—it’s small but mighty! The Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis was going through a leadership change, and a position was created for me to oversee marketing, communications, and visitor experience. About a year later, Lisa Melandri joined as executive director (like the SLSO’s Marie-Hélène Bernard, Lisa is a visionary—they’re close friends, no surprise!). During my ten years at CAM, the museum grew and evolved tremendously. We nearly doubled attendance and built a loyal, world-wide digital following. I’m especially proud of the work we did to improve CAM’s visibility and audience engagement—overhauling the museum’s brand identity, growing local and national press, redesigning the website, completing a front-of-house remodel, and increasing earned income tenfold. CAM is dear to my heart, and I left on excellent terms, ready for a new challenge.

While working in Grand Center for so many years, I got to know the SLSO and developed a friendship with David Nischwitz, the former VP of Marketing and Audience Experience. Whenever I wanted advice about digital marketing, advertising outlets, or audience research, I asked David. The SLSO was always ahead of the curve on marketing and audience experience. I continue to be impressed at how much both are valued here. Leading audience development for one of the nation’s best orchestras is a big job, not to mention coming out of a pandemic and with a building renovation and expansion on the horizon. But as I learned more about the position, the organization, and, most importantly, the people, I became more and more excited.

I’m grateful for a wonderful team—at the executive level, in my department, and throughout the organization. What I love most is our mandate to be creative. Arts organizations need to continually reinvent themselves to stay relevant. For such a large institution, the SLSO has shown that it does just that; we are nimble and willing to experiment, which is the bedrock of innovation. Plus, our orchestra and artistic programming are so stellar, and so beloved, that it’s a joyful challenge to bring in more audiences and inspire them to come back. I’m also grateful for Marie-Hélène’s (and the board’s) visionary leadership. The plans for renovating and expanding Powell Hall are stunning. That we’re partnering with such a respected and internationally renowned firm as Snøhetta speaks volumes. 

It’s only been four months, but so far, I feel incredibly welcomed. It’s been a pleasure getting to know so many of the SLSO’s deep and vast community, from the staff and musicians to the board and SVA. I look forward to working together to strengthen the organization and city that we love. (Oh, and the guy who brought me to St. Louis—he’s gone, but I’m still here!)

Youth Orchestra Trivia Night
Rockin’ Road Trip Trivia Night—March 4, 2023

Graphic of 2023 Youth Orchestra Trivia Night: Rockin' Road Trip Trivia Night

We are on the launch pad for this year’s Rockin’ Road Trip Trivia Night. The Trivia Night email is up and running, YOTrivia@slso.org, and final touches are being added to the website. Currently, there is a link on the website where people can let us know if they are interested in receiving registration information as soon as it is available. Final construction is being made to the registration linked site. By the time you receive this issue of News & Notes, registration should be running at full speed.

Marketing, led by Elizabeth Hahn and Laura Dwyer, is moving along with emails being sent to SVA members, notifications put on social media sites, YO musicians sharing flyers with friends and family, and various other venues receiving Rockin’ Road Trip Trivia Night flyers. There was a flyer attached to the last Trivia Night email to all SVA members. However, if you need a new PDF or additional printed copies of the flyer, let Lynda Lieberman or Martha Duchild know. And watch for our pre-concert slide at your next SLSO outing!

Letters to potential auction item donors and round sponsors were sent by Becky Brown on Friday, January 6. Thanks to Becky for doing such a great job!   If you have a favorite vendor or service provider, please ask them for a donation or round sponsorship. Becky, Lynda, and Martha have the necessary form. 

The next major undertaking will be for our personnel team, headed by Marilyn Humiston with Steve and Janice Seele, to start filling positions for staffing the various jobs that will be needed the evening of Trivia Night, and putting together the silent auction baskets. Thanks to Suzanne Seibel for graciously volunteering her basement to be “basket central” as we get the donated items ready for auction.

Lastly, but most importantly, GET YOUR TEAM TOGETHER AND REGISTER TO ATTEND! The 2020 Trivia Night event was a major success. We’re excited to welcome the same musical band host on March 4.

We need all SVA members to help promote Trivia Night 2023!  If you are uncertain on how you can help, here is a starter list, or just call one of us, we’ll know!



Thanks to everyone who has been contributing their time and efforts to date!  Feel free to contact Lynda Lieberman, Trivia Night Chair, at (314)-960-4366 or YOTrivia@slso.org, with any questions, suggestions, or offers to volunteer.


It’s nice to see life returning slowly, but surely to normal in Powell Hall. Familiar faces are reappearing at concerts and SVA events. Equally exciting is the recent influx of new SVA members, many of them already stepping up to work at the Coffee Concert and in the Boutique. If you cross paths with someone you do not recognize, put on your best smile, and make sure they know how happy you are to meet them and include them in the SVA family. 

A friendly reminder: SVA name badges (old and new) are awaiting pickup in the Boutique. Just ask the volunteer behind the counter to retrieve your badge for you the next time you are in Powell Hall. If you need a new name badge, contact Laura Dwyer or Suzanne Seibel.

Speaking of name badges, please wear your name badge when attending a concert or event as a patron. These are opportunities to meet and reach out to potential new members and that name badge helps start the process.

Membership Engagement

Kathryn Snodgrass continues to receive requests and sends cards in sympathy or with well wishes. Anyone in the SVA membership is encouraged to contact Kathryn at SVAEngagement@slso.org, requesting a recognition of a fellow volunteer’s needs or celebrations.

Image of cover of the SVA 22/23 Membership Directory

Membership Directory

The 2022/2023 Membership Directory is still available in printed form for pick-up at the Powell Hall Boutique (when open). One directory per Volunteer please. 

In the interest of making sure that we can keep you up to date on the activities of both the SVA and the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra, please let us know any changes to your contact information—new home address, email address, phone number, etc.

Please note:  If a single phone number is adequate for your Directory entry, please send an email to Susan Pribble at SVADirectory@slso.org letting her know which number to use. If we can get to one number per member, it will save significant printing costs!

New and Prospective

We’re so happy to introduce our new members since our last News and Notes: Mike Darcy, Eileen Gmerek, Gloria Hamilton, Patricia Hughes, Marcia and Carl Moskowitz, Denise Wilson, Craig Phillips and Andi Zhang. (If I omitted your name, please let me know!) When you see them at SVA events and committee meetings, be sure to say hello and extend a warm SVA welcome!

Suzanne Seibel and Karen Silsby did a great job representing the SVA at the Donors Open Rehearsal on Thursday evening, December 1st. Eleven prospective members stopped by their information table in the lobby and expressed an interest in the SVA. Our committee members contacted each of these prospects, and we’re hoping that many will join! We plan to be present at future open rehearsals in February and March. Our table is ready and waiting for us!

Back by popular demand – Cocktails and Conversation will be coming your way in 2023! Our committee is busy planning two “C and C’s[CC1] .” Mark your calendar now for two very special zoom hours. Our first Zoom Cocktails and Conversation will be held on Tuesday, February 21, at 5:00pm, featuring Concertmaster David Halen.

Our second C&C, featuring Stephanie Childress, Assistant Conductor and Music Director of the Youth Orchestra, will be on Tuesday, April 11, at 5:00pm. You won’t want to miss this exciting opportunity to meet with this very talented conductor and violinist. These events showcase some of the many SVA activities for prospective members, so please ask your friends to join us and help us bring in new SVA members.

We’re working on other ideas as well, and we will let you know future plans.

One last thought…

We would love to get YOUR input—if you have any ideas on how to attract new SVA members, don’t be shy, let us hear from you at SVANewandProspective@slso.org. We’re all in this together!

Pick and Choose
As many of you may already know, the One and Done committee has been renamed to PICK AND CHOOSE. Why, you ask? One and Done had a deceptivefinality to it, as if to say “do ONE job and you are done.” Everyone with the SVA should know that that is far from the truth. The work of the SVA and the SLSO is never done! So with that being said, feel free to pick and choose many different jobs that Karen Silsby’s committee offers, especially as the holiday season approaches with all of its many opportunities.

Pick and Choose had a busy holiday season, scheduling volunteers as Santa’s helper at Powell and at Lindenwood. The focus of P&C for the balance of the SLSO season will be obtaining hosts for the shuttle bus from Plaza Frontenac to Powell for SATURDAY morning Coffee Concerts. Although it is a lengthier commitment, it is probably one of the more relaxed, and with the added perk of a free ticket for you AND A FRIEND on the shuttle and at the concert. Please contact Karen Silsby at skynunkaren@gmail.com if you are interested.

SVA Winter Heat gathering in the Powell Hall foyer

Meetings and Events

The Membership/Meeting and Events Committee is planning our Winter Brunch for March 18 at Algonquin Golf Club. Then, the last event for this year will be the Spring Brunch at Westwood Country Club on June 9. More information about speakers and entertainment will be announced at a later date. Photo: Winter Heat, January 6.


As you may already know, our big 100th SVA Anniversary is coming up in 2025. Nancy Malvin and Vi Steinmeyer, with assistance from others, have been working on an SVA History Project. Their first step was to conduct a series of interviews with past SVA Presidents and other long-term members. It is now time for those interviews to be transcribed, and they need help to listen to the recordings and then type the dialogue. The work will be done from your home with your computer, and they will provide a computer-generated transcript to be used as a starting point.

If you’re interested, and able to type, please contact Nancy at the address below for details of the project. Hopefully your fingers are limber and you are ready to help with this assignment. Nancy will be available to help you get started and answer any questions. Her email address is SVAHistory@slso.org.


Coffee Concerts
The December 9 coffee concert found 16 volunteers hard at work. How beautiful Powell Hall was, decorated for the Christmas season. Many patrons took photos in front of the beautifully decorated tree. Patrons appreciated the warm welcome each received as we served coffee, tea, and donuts. Eddie’s Southtown Donuts are a huge hit with our patrons.

The holiday feel was great, and each patron added to that feel with their appreciation and enjoyment of not only the coffee and donuts but the decorated hall as well. In fact, often our volunteers assisted with taking photos for patrons in front of the tree. After serving, many of us stayed and enjoyed another wonderful concert.

For further information about SVA Coffee Concert activities please contact Team Leads Milly Neff and Doug Neff at SVACoffeeConcerts@slso.org.

Express the Music
By the time you receive this issue of News & Notes, our initial volunteer readers will have completed their assessments of over 400 writing submissions from area junior and senior high-school students! GREAT THANKS TO OUR TEAM OF READERS, NUMBERING OVER 30…!!! Teachers from the greater St. Louis area and several outlying locations in Missouri have been working diligently to prepare their students and review their work. This program literally touches thousands of students; only the best creative writings from each class are sent to us for review.

Our team of ten outstanding judges are in the process of reviewing the best-of-the-best poems and prose as you are reading this newsletter. We secured our eight professional judges from last year’s competition to participate again this year. Additionally, we added two new judges: Marcia Moskowitz, an SVA member and a retired educator with significant experience reviewing student writings for class and college entrance requirements; and Dr. Benjamin Torbert, an English professor at UMSL and director of UMSL’s English graduate program.

The ETM award ceremony will take place Sunday afternoon, March 19, in conjunction with a St. Louis Symphony Youth Orchestra performance. We hope you will attend the ceremony to cheer on the ETM winners and to support the YO’s performance (and perhaps assist us with managing the ETM award ceremony). If you have ever entertained, you know that it’s a great deal more rewarding with a nice audience. If you have never been to a YO performance, we guarantee that you can close your eyes and you won’t believe those are high-school students performing—perhaps YO should stand for “Youth Outstanding.”

MANY THANKS TO OUR GREAT COMMITTEE who helped to update the teacher database, volunteered to be initial readers, and who will assist with the March 19 ceremony—HOPE TO SEE YOU ALL THERE!

Picture the Music:
Activity for Picture the Music got into full gear by the middle of January 2023. Thousands of students in Kindergarten through sixth grade, from hundreds of schools across Missouri and Southern Illinois are listening to Gustav Holst’s “Jupiter: Bringer of Jollity” from The Planets, and creating a drawing, painting, or 2D artwork that expresses their interpretation of the piece of music. 

Teachers will then choose and electronically submit up to seven entries from their elementary school. Our six local Arts Education Volunteer Judges will be using a software judging platform to select the top 100 pieces of artwork from the hundreds of submissions. The top 100 winners will be invited, along with their family, friends, teachers, and administrators, to the Awards Night at Powell Hall on Wednesday, March 29, 2023. 

Each winner will be seated on the stage, acknowledged by name and school, and receive an award. This year, the Saint Louis Science Center’s McDonnell Planetarium staff will be on hand in the Powell Hall parking lot with telescopes to assist the students with viewing the planets. The top 100 winners’ artwork will then be displayed at the Planetarium and the Saint Louis Art Museum for the public to enjoy.

Group Hosts
Three SVA Group Hosts busily greeted SLSO patrons, young and old, arriving by bus and van at the December 9 Coffee Concert. Six SVA Group Hosts greeted patrons arriving by bus and van at the December 16 Mercy Holiday Concert. All patrons arrived and departed safely! 

In 2023, the Coffee Concerts will be performed on Saturday mornings at 10:30am. Volunteer time commitment for groups hosts is 9:15am to 12:45pm, and team leader Susanne Mertens is finalizing the volunteer schedule for the coffee concerts in January, February, March, and April 2023. Our Group Host volunteers are fabulous people—flexible, patient, personable and kind. We strive to be a great enhancement for SLSO patrons.

Powell Hall Tours

The Powell Hall Tours group will conduct Education tours for school children following the concerts February 21 and 22, 2023. New Tours Team members who have expressed an interest in participating will be assigned as “shadows” with experienced guides.

We do not anticipate offering any public tours this year due to the upcoming renovation of Powell Hall.

For further information about SVA Powell Hall Tours, please contact Team Lead Becky Brown (SVATours@slso.org).

Youth Orchestra
The YO will begin rehearsal in January for their performance on Sunday, March 19, 2023, at 3:00 pm at Powell Hall. This will be an exciting performance conducted by Stephanie Childress and featuring the Concerto Competition Winner (and YO co-concertmaster), Ayman Amerin, violin. The YO will perform Johannes Brahms’ Allegro non troppo from Violin Concerto in D major and Dmitri Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 5 in D minor. Please join us on March 19th and be inspired by the next generation of incredible musicians!

For further information about Youth Orchestra and volunteering, please contact SVA Team Leader Stephanie Randall (SVAYouthOrchestra@slso.org). 

Education Hosts
Education Concerts were back in full force at Powell Hall on November 2 and 3! For the first time since February 2020, we returned to 4 concerts over 2 days. Plenty of energetic and smiling ambassadors to greet children and their teachers were on hand.

The next set of Education Concerts will be soon: Feb. 21 and 22. Although the warm temperatures and sunny skies we experienced in November are less likely this month, it’s a great experience whatever the weather, as thousands of children will brighten any day.

For further information about Education Hosts, please contact Group Leader Steve Seele (SVAEduAmbassadors@slso.org).

Group Hosts
For 2022/2023, the SLSO has scheduled four coffee concerts on Friday mornings and 4 coffee concerts on Saturday mornings. Volunteers on this committee will greet buses of patrons arriving for the eight morning coffee concerts and the afternoon holiday concert in December.

Additional volunteers are needed as we prepare for a full season of coffee concerts and the afternoon holiday concert. Volunteers receive a complimentary ticket for the concert they host.  

 For further information about SVA Group Host activities please contact Team Lead Susanne Mertens (SVAGroupHosts@slso.org), Sherry Moschner (spmoschner@gmail.com) or Debbie Eldridge Miali (deldridgemiali@gmail.com).

Philanthropy & Stewardship

Now that the Missouri legislature has sworn in its 2023 members, we can get to work! Our first task is to find our Missouri state Senator and Representative. Our second task is to hone the message that we will communicate to them throughout the year, but especially this coming February.

We have created a PDF checklist and information file. If you read through that file, do the exercises, and visit the links contained therein, you will have a good start on these tasks!

To obtain a copy of the PDF file, or if you have any questions, please E-mail me or call. Here are three links of interest:

Economic Impact

Community Impact

Educational Impact

Join the Advocacy Team!  Contact: SVAAdvocacy@slso.org.
                      Arts have an economic impact!

The Ambassador Committee has been hard at work Surprising and Delighting our new first-time attendees and donors. They are not only welcomed with a warm smile, but they receive a surprise gift. This has not only delighted the concert goers, it brings great joy to the committee members who are welcoming them, and we have been recognized by the SLSO staff (photo)! 

We have all but a few of the concerts covered for the second half of the season. Please let us know if you would like to help, no ticket to the concert needed, we will provide one. Contact Judy Brown at 314-503-7622 or email SVAAmbassador@slso.org

For the month of December, the Boutique enjoyed success, exemplified by both the concert goers’ purchases and the volunteers who donated their time and enthusiasm to keep the holiday sales exceptionally prosperous. Each of the 32 members of the Boutique committee volunteered for at least one concert, and so many others served on multiple concert dates, and we thank each of them for their dedication.

We recently took our 3rd delivery of musical ornaments. Although the holiday season is over, the prices of the ornaments will remain the same due to their uniqueness. Miniature instruments, scarves, hats, gloves, socks, jewelry, books, and other items drove up our sales numbers. All have contributed to the prosperity the Boutique has enjoyed.

Thanks again to all who have helped to make December a month of wonderful experiences for our Boutique.

Discovery Committee

The St. Louis Symphony Chorus sent our committee a beautiful thank you note for the cookie packages we gave them in November, signed by all the chorus members. Thank you for all that you do on this committee —and all the other volunteer work that I know you are involved with.

It is a pleasure to serve with all of you!

Need to Get in Touch?

Eric Dundon

Public Relations Director