Arts, Culture, and Humanities

Pacific Symphony

Inspiring, engaging and serving Orange County through exceptional music performances

aka Pacific Symphony Association

Irvine, CA


Pacific Symphony inspires, engages and serves Orange County through exceptional music performances, and education and community programming. Its vision is to lead a renaissance in the appreciation, accessibility and impact of classical music in Orange County and the region, through creativity, responsiveness and innovation.

Ruling Year



Mr. John Forsyte

Main Address

17620 Fitch Suite 100

Irvine, CA 92614 USA


Symphony, arts, education, music, culture





Cause Area (NTEE Code)

Music (A68)

Arts Education/Schools (A25)

IRS Filing Requirement

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

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Social Media

Programs + Results

What we aim to solve New!

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

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

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization



Santa Ana Strings - Violin Instruction for Underserved Children

HEARTSTRINGS - Making music accessible to the under-served


Where we workNew!

Charting Impact

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

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

What is the organization aiming to accomplish?

What are the organization's key strategies for making this happen?

What are the organization's capabilities for doing this?

How will they know if they are making progress?

What have and haven't they accomplished so far?

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.

In order to measure progress towards achieving organizational and program goals, board and staff meet monthly to review financial reports, program results, evaluation data and gauge the effectiveness of the efforts of the marketing and development teams. Surveys are conducted to gather feedback and audience response to concerts, programs and services. Individual departments share reports with the Executive Committee of the Board of Directors, and board committees meet regularly to review information. Senior staff and the Board Executive Committee assesses program results, discuss improvements and share best practices with the full Board of Directors. Twice a year during its Annual Meeting and yearly Retreat, the Board reviews progress indicators to ensure that tactics and objectives are being met.

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.

External Reviews



Pacific Symphony

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  • Address, phone, website and contact information
  • Forms 990 for 2017, 2016 and 2016
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The people, governance practices, and partners that make the organization tick.

Need more info?

FREE: Gain immediate access to the following:

  • Address, phone, website and contact information
  • Forms 990 for 2017, 2016 and 2016
A Pro report is also available for this organization for $125.
Click here to see what's included.

Board Leadership Practices

GuideStar worked with BoardSource, the national leader in nonprofit board leadership and governance, to create this section, which enables organizations and donors to transparently share information about essential board leadership practices.

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization


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?



Has the board conducted a formal, written assessment of the chief executive within the past year?



Have the board and senior staff reviewed the conflict-of-interest policy and completed and signed disclosure statements in the past year?



Does the board ensure an inclusive board member recruitment process that results in diversity of thought and leadership?



Has the board conducted a formal, written self-assessment of its performance within the past three years?