Volunteers Make Beautiful Music Together

Pasadena Community OrchestraThe Pasadena Community Orchestra (www.pcomusic.org), often described as “a true community orchestra,” gives five concerts each year with the help of many, many volunteers.
The orchestra was founded in 1983 by Wayne Reineke who served as conductor for the orchestra and, with the assistance of his wife, Sue, kept it going until his retirement in 2007. At that point, the legal and financial responsibility for the orchestra was picked up by the nine-person governing board. The orchestra is now conducted by Beth Pflueger, a professor of music at Glendale Community College.

Although the conductor and concertmaster are paid, more than seventy local musicians volunteer their time to what is most assuredly a labor of love, using their collective musical talents to give back to the community. Musicians range in age from a few in their teens to some still playing beautifully in their 80s. Several musicians also sit on the orchestra’s governing board.

As the Pasadena Community Orchestra does not charge admission to its concerts, it must rely on donations and grants to fund its activities. With volunteer help, and despite generally hard times, the orchestra has managed to increase its annual budget from about $30,000 a year two years ago to approximately $40,000 this fiscal year.

Earl YaokasinBette Solomon, Board President since 2010, has aimed to both broaden the orchestra’s financial base, and to expose it to a wider audience. A writer and a teacher as well as a violist in the orchestra, Solomon has authored a number of successful grant proposals and helped institute a five year plan aimed at making the orchestra more financially secure.
In 2011, a cellist in the orchestra mentioned Jericho Road Pasadena (JRP) to Solomon. She and board treasurer Joe Kertes met with JRP personnel and outlined their needs. They were connected with volunteer Earl Yaokasin, a financial professional who Solomon calls “wonderful.”

A native of the Philippines, Yaokasin brought ten years financial experience to bear on the orchestra’s budgeting system, which he found to be overly complicated and difficult to manage. In meetings with Solomon and Kertes, Yaokasin suggested ways to streamline the orchestra’s financial recording. He also taught Kertes how to set up the budget, balance sheet, and other financial data in an easily accessible form on Quicken accounting software which had not been employed before.

Yaokasin helped the orchestra develop accurate budget and expense projections. Budget projections are important because revenues projected as too low can inhibit the orchestra from spending enough on things necessary to accomplish its mission, while projections that are too high can create overspending and force the organization to draw down its financial reserves.

PCO BoardIn addition to other improvements, Yaokasin feels he was helpful in building a bridge between Solomon and Kertes, who had different priorities in budgeting. While Solomon had a focus on increasing revenues, Kertes focused on keeping spending in check. In the end, working together, their strengths balanced each other out to net a better financial future for the orchestra.

To map out ways to professionalize the budget, Kertes, Yaokasin, and Solomon met several times. They sat down in front of the computer and worked out the details of the orchestra’s budgeting needs together.

Yaokasin helped the orchestra in its switch to Quicken professional budgeting software. This allows Kertes quickly to call up virtually any type of financial report he needs. Kertes called Yaokasin “just fabulous.” The JRP volunteer not only provided expert advice, but he even followed up several weeks after the work was completed to see if the orchestra needed anything else.

“I can’t say enough good about Jericho Road Pasadena,” says Bette Solomon, who has also received grant-writing assistance through the organization. “JRP sets very good boundaries for their projects. The boundaries are designed to protect us, and also to protect the volunteers, so nobody wastes anybody else’s time.”

Kertes adds, “That such an entity as JRP exists is mind-boggling. The services they providePCO Conductor would cost a lot of money in the private sector. We are a better organization for their help.”

After achieving his own financial goals at a fairly young age, Yaokasin began to look around for a place where he could volunteer his considerable knowledge. He found Jericho Road Pasadena on a Google search of local volunteer organizations and is happy about the results he helped achieve. Indeed, Yaokasin’s first effort was so fulfilling, he hopes to do more volunteer work.

“For the next phase of my life, I’d like to help people improve in whatever capacity I can,” said Yaokasin, who also recently started a company called Wealtharch Investment Services. “When I was looking around, I thought, why not offer my services to an organization that interacts with multiple organizations? Music is about people, it consoles people, it helps people think and helps people have fun. What better organization to help with than this one?”

Kertes describes the orchestra as a “win-win-win” situation for the community. Musicians love to play, conductors love to pick beautiful music for the orchestra’s concerts, and the community loves to listen. Everybody wins, and volunteers are the key to the entire enterprise, Kertes notes.

With a little help from many volunteers, rehearsals begin in September for the Pasadena Community Orchestra’s first concert of the season, to be held in November. The orchestra will present four classical music concerts this season ending with a “pops” type concert in the park, all of which are free to the public.
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Many thanks to volunteer writer David Drum is a local writer who is the author of several nonfiction books and the novel, Introducing the Richest Family in America.

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