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Santa Barbara Symphony Announces Unprecedented Leadership Triumvirate to Lead Organization Over the Next Five Years

“One of our most important learnings during the pandemic is that our community not only misses live music and Symphony concerts, but they treasure the Symphony family, and the personal connection to the people involved, particularly the musicians,” Music and Artistic Director, Nir Kabaretti.

Kathryn R. Martin, Maestro Nir Kabaretti and Janet Garufis to build on the organization’s impact during historic season, and be a beacon for collaboration, connection and community engagement

(January 26, 2021) Santa Barbara, CA – The ​Santa Barbara Symphony​ ​has announced that three of its key leaders have committed to advancing the organization over the next five years, building upon the organization’s programming innovation, leveraging the organization’s new momentum and growth to
look toward the big possibilities ahead. Newly named President & CEO Kathryn R. Martin, Music & Artistic Director Nir Kabaretti, and Board President Janet Garufis, have committed to their leadership roles for the next five years, and together with the Symphony staff and board of directors, have begun to lay out a five-year visionary framework to be announced in the coming months. In this time of the pandemic and all of its challenges, these three leaders bring strong, steady and inclusive leadership, and a keen sense of responsibility to inspire, engage and educate the community through the many facets uniquely possible by a professional symphony.

Veteran arts leader Kathryn R. Martin has officially been appointed President & CEO to lead the Symphony forward. As a transition strategist and Next Chapter coach, Martin has a 30-year career leading arts and culture organizations in creating extraordinary momentum during times of change and transition. As one of the top professional Interim CEOs in the country, Martin is a respected resource on revenue generation, community engagement and collaboration, leadership, and has led ten arts organizations as Interim CEO – most recently with the Tucson Symphony Orchestra, Sharon Lynne Wilson Center for the Arts in Milwaukee, Linda Pace Foundation in San Antonio, University of California San Diego’s Artpower, and the Santa Barbara Symphony in 2016. Martin serves on the Board of the Association of California Symphony Orchestras.

Real opportunities arose for the organization last May when Martin stepped in as Interim CEO to lead the organization through the pandemic.

“When faced with the daunting financial and operational challenges the pandemic created, a strength and determination was revealed, and a collaborative approach was ignited,” shared Martin. “Behind the scenes, important organizational shifts occurred. The orchestra – the heart of the organization – was brought into the decision-making process by having an orchestra member participate on our board. Nir expanded his artistic vision and creativity to the virtual setting and his leadership off the podium in music education created a new strategic partnership with Westmont College. Vibrant community leaders have joined the Board. This is an exciting time, and I’m incredibly honored to be entrusted to lead the Santa Barbara Symphony, and energized to be doing so with Nir and Janet – the three of us share a deep commitment to bring both joy and inspiration to what is my new hometown!”

Nir Kabaretti, the Symphony’s internationally renowned Music and Artistic Director will continue to expand upon his leadership on and off the podium and has agreed to extend his contract for the next five years as well. This past year, Kabaretti flexed his artistic vision to new programs designed for the at home viewer – in ways no one had ever imagined – from online music classrooms, to bringing the orchestra back into the concert hall and broadcasting the programs with intimate conversations with artists into living rooms across the globe, to parking lots at senior communities and back to the stage with all new safety precautions in place.

“One of our most important learnings during the pandemic is that our community not only misses live music and Symphony concerts, but they treasure the Symphony family, and the personal connection to the people involved, particularly the musicians,” shared Kabaretti. “What we’ve witnessed throughout this new season, during which we’ve combined live orchestra performances with conversations with musicians, behind-the-scenes moments, and collaborations within our community, is that now we are really able to tell ​our​ story, and how wonderful and compelling our story truly is! Having the ability to innovate during these times will continue to make us stronger as an organization, and I’m looking forward to this exciting new chapter with the Santa Barbara Symphony.”

Janet Garufis has also made a commitment to remain at the helm of the Symphony’s Board of Directors over the next five year period. As the Chairman and CEO of Montecito Bank & Trust, Garufis brings over 45 years of financial leadership, expertise and deep community relationships to the organization.

“This past year when much of the world pushed pause, the Santa Barbara Symphony boldly led forward, knowing that the world needed music now more than ever,” shared Garufis. “Through innovative thinking, and a commitment to continuing the music, the organization created a path forward and is delivering a historic season that will be remembered forever. Our job now is to continue to innovate and collaborate, reach broader audiences and create a truly sustainable organization for generations to come. I am honored to be a part of this journey.”

The Symphony’s leadership also understood the importance of having a musician participate on its board of directors, and in the spring of last year, Don Foster, now in his 24th season as the Santa Barbara Symphony’s Principal Clarinetist, joined the board.

“The fact that the Santa Barbara Symphony invited a musician to sit on the board is incredibly progressive and rare,” shared Foster. “Creativity and ingenuity, by definition, is not bound by a set of parameters. While many orchestras and arts organizations have simply had no alternative to surviving the ravages of the pandemic other than to simply dim the lights and send everybody home, our organization is constantly seeking ways to keep the music alive. This can only bode well for the future.”

As one of the few performing arts organizations in the country that is presenting performances by socially-distanced orchestra members rehearsing, performing and recording together, the Symphony is presenting seven programs this season, through an all-new on-demand streaming format. Curated by Kabaretti, the 2020/2021 season shines a spotlight onto their own Santa Barbara Symphony musicians along with local artistic treasures. For full details about the 2020/2021 season, and to purchase tickets or subscriptions, please ​click here​.

About The Santa Barbara Symphony

Now in its 71st year, The Santa Barbara Symphony delivers artistic excellence, outstanding music education stewardship and programming, and community collaboration – all through symphonic music. Under the artistic leadership of Maestro Nir Kabaretti as Music & Artistic Director since 2006, The Symphony is one of the region’s premier cultural institutions. Through his charismatic leadership, this globally admired conductor and Santa Barbara resident invigorates audiences and musicians alike through his passion, creativity, and vast experience. As the only music education program tied to a professional symphony orchestra in the region, The Symphony serves more than 4,000 students annually throughout Santa Barbara County. While The Symphony continues to evolve, bringing joy, engagement, and connection remain steadfast pillars of its mission and were evident in the organization’s ability to thrive during the pandemic including the historic announcement that board chair Janet Garufis and President & CEO Kathryn R Martin join Nir Kabaretti in making a five-year commitment to serve in their roles. For more information, visit

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