Pacific Symphony

Inspiring, engaging and serving Orange County through exceptional music performances

aka Pacific Symphony Association   |   IRVINE, CA   |


Pacific Symphony’s mission is to inspire, engage and serve Orange County through exceptional music performances, and education and community engagement. Its vision is to lead a renaissance in the appreciation, accessibility and impact of classical music in the region through creativity, responsiveness and innovation.

Ruling year info



Mr. John Forsyte

Main address

17620 Fitch Suite 100


Show more contact info



NTEE code info

Music (A68)

Elementary, Secondary Ed (B20)

Arts Education/Schools (A25)

IRS filing requirement

This organization is required to file an IRS Form 990 or 990-EZ.

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Programs and results

What we aim to solve

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Pacific Symphony was established in 1978 to serve the classical music needs of Orange County, and to provide music education and community engagement for school districts lacking arts learning programs. The Symphony's education and community initiatives were developed to meet the need of declining in-school arts programs and to supply quality music activities in local neighborhoods. Facing ongoing budget cuts, schools continue to rely on Pacific Symphony to furnish valuable music education for their students. The Orange County Cultural Indicator Report shows that only 38% of the county’s school districts have policies to include arts programs in their schools. Less than 2% of district budgets allocate for the arts, and just 5 of the 27 county districts employ arts administrators. With a ratio of arts specialists of 1 in 1,147, these statistics demonstrate the strong need for arts programming in embattled school districts to fill the void of music in the classroom.

Our programs

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

What are the organization's current programs, how do they measure success, and who do the programs serve?


Pacific Symphony presents more than 100 performances each year to some 275,000 community members in venues throughout the county. The Symphony consists of 88 musicians led by Music Director Carl St.Clair. Every season, the Symphony presents concerts that include classical, pops, family programs, semi-staged opera presentations and an outdoor summer series. Programming also includes chamber music concerts on Sunday afternoons, three youth ensembles for middle and high school students, three or more Symphony in the Cities summer public park concerts, and a concert series at SOKA Performing Arts Center in Aliso Viejo.

Population(s) Served

Celebrating 25 consecutive years in 2019-20, the Frieda Belinfante Class Act music education program is an award-winning initiative offered to all public, private, parochial and charter schools in Orange County. Up to 32 elementary schools partner with a Symphony musician who provides in-classroom music workshops aligned with Common Core and VAPA education standards. Classroom teachers are provided with professional development, training and lesson plans to augment the workshops and aid in their own music education beyond the scope of the program. Musicians perform in Family Night concerts onsite and at the end of the year, every grade 2-5 student is bused to the Rènee and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall for a full performance by Pacific Symphony.  As a culminating activity, Bravo Assemblies allow students to showcase what they have learned during the year through creative expression in song, dance, music, theater and visual arts presentations.

Population(s) Served

Santa Ana Strings (SAS) was introduced in 2011 as an after-school, year-round violin instruction program in Title I schools. In January 2015, SAS partnered with the Boys & Girls Club to deepen the impact of music in the lives of low-income students in grades 2-6, expanding outreach into the community. The Club was selected because of its strong neighborhood presence and reputation. SAS instructors consist of professional Pacific Symphony musicians who serve as teaching artists, coaches and mentors. SAS's purpose is to provide intensive music training where local children strive towards responsibility, and focus on achievement by playing challenging music. They perform regularly at the Club and community sites. Student performances  garner 100% student participation and the Club reports that the concerts have the largest attendance of any other event - including all sporting events. Today, the program continues to serve low-income, Title I students through mentorship, coaching, performance opportunities and a violin to take home.

Population(s) Served

Heartstrings provides free access to concerts, hands-on wellness activities, transportation and immersive music instruction for a broad range of local non-profit agencies and their under-served constituents. Musical experiences are customized to help partner organizations in Orange County fulfill their own missions and to provide the most meaningful impact on program participants. More than 9,000 community members, low-income families and children engage in Heartstrings every year. Heartstrings has broadened its focus to offer music and wellness programs to serve children on the autism spectrum and homeless families in partnership with The Center for Autism and OC Rescue Mission, respectively. Additional program partners include Academy of Music for the Blind, Alzheimer's Association, Asian American Senior Citizens Service Center, Children’s Hospital of Orange County, Talk About Curing Autism, Friendship Shelter and Working Wardrobes.

Population(s) Served

Pacific Symphony Youth Ensembles (PSYE) is a premier performance program, nurturing and inspiring young artists in grades 6-12. PSYE consists of three performing ensembles, all benefiting from the artistic vision of Pacific Symphony Music Director Carl St.Clair. Students representing 72 area middle and high schools enjoy a variety of interactions with Symphony musicians including sectional coachings, master classes and side-by-side performances. The ensembles are:  Pacific Symphony Santiago Strings, providing string musicians in grades 6-9 with quality string and performance instruction; led by Irene Kroesen. Pacific Symphony Youth Orchestra, led by Assistant Conductor Roger Kalia, the orchestra provides over 100 string, wind and percussion musicians in grades 9-12 with intense orchestral training.  Pacific Symphony Youth Wind Ensemble offers wind and percussion musicians in grades 8-12 opportunities to refine their skills in an innovative wind symphony environment; led by Gregory X. Whitmore.

Population(s) Served

Where we work

Goals & Strategy

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Learn about the organization's key goals, strategies, capabilities, and progress.

Charting impact

Four powerful questions that require reflection about what really matters - results.

The five organizational goals follow, which will lead to the attainment of Pacific Symphony’s mission and vision.

1. Establish Pacific Symphony as a beacon of artistic achievement and Orange County’s artistic ambassador to the world.

2. Attract, engage and serve a larger and more diverse audience in Orange County and the region by enhancing and leveraging the Symphony’s innate versatility.

3. Engage with the diverse community to inspire curiosity, improve well-being, and connect to local citizens through a deeper appreciation and love of classical music.

4. Recruit and retain board, musicians, staff and volunteers with skills, creativity and passion, so that Pacific Symphony has both the human capital and organizational capacity to achieve its future vision and goals.

5. Develop an optimal mix of philanthropic, earned and capital resources to ensure long-term capacity to achieve strategic goals.

A five-year strategic plan was developed and implemented to serve as a blueprint for the organization from 2016 to 2021. Strategies and tactics are outlined and detailed in the plan for each of the five organizational goals. For example, in working towards establishing Pacific Symphony as a beacon of artistic achievement, the organization advanced its brand awareness to the national and international markets during the 2017-18 season. Leading into its 40th anniversary, major promotional and public recognition reached new heights through three major events in 2018: an invitational debut at Carnegie Hall in April, a successful tour to five major metropolitan cities in China in May, and a PBS Great Performances national broadcast in June 2018. The year produced three of the most important and noteworthy achievements in Pacific Symphony history, made all the more meaningful with an additional $3.1 million secured from philanthropic support above and beyond the annual income goal.

The organization has been a leading arts institution in Orange County, California for 40 years, with senior leadership demonstrating the necessary experience and capacity to achieve the strategic, organizational and aspirational goals of the orchestra. Music Director and Conductor Carl St.Clair celebrates his 30th anniversary during the 2019-20 season; President John Forsyte marks his 20th anniversary in 2018; Executive Vice President and COO Sean Sutton has 16 years of experience with the Symphony; and several long-serving staff members enjoy tenures of up to 20 years each. Pacific Symphony has a strong board of directors, with leaders serving terms of 3 to 6 years in order to keep membership current, relevant and renewed. Moreover, Pacific Symphony has a 28-consecutive-year history of balanced budgets, as of Fall 2018, which demonstrates its exemplary fiscal management.

Pacific Symphony’s five-year strategic plan is a living document which is reviewed and revised every year (or more) over the life of the document. As such, stakeholders have developed a unifying strategic direction for the future of the orchestra that builds on the success of Pacific Symphony’s artistic, community engagement and experimental initiatives. Potential strategies will always be judged through the lens of financial sustainability. Among the ten strategies are the following three:

1. Continued investment in artistic excellence, attaining the highest standard of achievement, and recognition on the national and international stage.

2. Develop additional innovative programs, and evolve the concert experience in order to serve the increasingly diverse community.

3. Holistically leverage community partnerships to respond to the community’s needs and interests, while advancing the Symphony’s vision.


Pacific Symphony

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The people, governance practices, and partners that make the organization tick.


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Connect with nonprofit leaders


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  • Analyze a variety of pre-calculated financial metrics
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  • Compare nonprofit financials to similar organizations

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Pacific Symphony

Board of directors
as of 7/8/2020
SOURCE: Self-reported by organization
Board chair

Dr Joann Leatherby

Leatherby Family Foundation

Term: 2017 - 2020

Susan Anderson

Community Volunteer

Jo Ellen Chatham

Southern California Edison

John Daniels

Property Manager, South Coast Plaza

Lucy Dunn

President and CEO Orange County Business Council

John R. Evans

Retired Regional Managing Director, Wells Fargo Bank

Barbara Foster

President, Insights Worldwide

Michael Gordon

Vice-Chairman, First Q Capital

Nicholas Greenko

CFO, Tangram Interiors

Rondell B. Hanson

Community Volunteer

Michelle Horowitz

Seth Johnson

Michael Kerr

President, Bluestone Communities

Joann Leatherby

President, Leatherby Family Foundation

Phillip N. Lyons

PinecreekInvestment Co.

David Melili

President, David Melilli Company

Carlos Mollura

Community Volunteer

Timothy Molnar

Wealth Management Advisor

Stacey Nicholas

Mark Nielsen

Executive Chairman, TextPower, Inc.

Anoosheh Oskouian

President, Ship and Shore Environmental, Inc.

William F. Podlich

Miguel Pulido

Mayor, City of Santa Ana

Honorable Warren Siegel

Retired Superior Court Judge

Elizabeth Stahr

John Stahr

Christopher Tower

Partner, BDO Seidman LLP

David Troob

Troob Capital Management

W. Henry Walker

President, Farmers & Merchants Bank

Leona Aronoff-Sadacca

John Forsyte

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Donald Hecht

James Newton Howard

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Diane Sawyer

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Ronald Simon

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Eric Chamberlain

Bank of America

Ginny Davies

Raymond Francis

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David Ontko

Disneyland Resorts

John Peller

Judith Posnikoff


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Rochelle Ward

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Charles Zhang

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David P. Collins

Catherine Emmi

Jane Fujishige Yada

Lindsey Ayers

Carothers DiSante Freudenberger LLP

Sheng Jiang

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Agnes Lew

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Diana Martin

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Brian Maryott

Wells Fargo Bank

Scott Seigel

Judy Whitmore

Carol Choi

Philip Wendt

Donald Hu

Scharrell Jackson

John Mark Jennings

Board leadership practices

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

GuideStar worked with BoardSource, the national leader in nonprofit board leadership and governance, to create this section.

  • Board orientation and education
    Does the board conduct a formal orientation for new board members and require all board members to sign a written agreement regarding their roles, responsibilities, and expectations? Yes
  • CEO oversight
    Has the board conducted a formal, written assessment of the chief executive within the past year ? Yes
  • Ethics and transparency
    Have the board and senior staff reviewed the conflict-of-interest policy and completed and signed disclosure statements in the past year? Yes
  • Board composition
    Does the board ensure an inclusive board member recruitment process that results in diversity of thought and leadership? Yes
  • Board performance
    Has the board conducted a formal, written self-assessment of its performance within the past three years? Yes