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Symphony Bucks National Trends as its Executive Leader is Lauded for the Organization’s Momentum and Impact

President & CEO Kathryn R Martin Receives the Association of California Symphony Orchestras’ 2024 Executive Leadership Award

The Santa Barbara Symphony today announced that President & CEO Kathryn R Martin is being honored with the 2024 Executive Leadership Award by the Association of California Symphony Orchestras (ACSO). This prestigious award will be presented at ACSO’s 2024 Annual Conference in San Francisco from July 25-27.

The ACSO Executive Leadership Award celebrates chief executives who demonstrate extraordinary leadership in the classical music field. Recipients are recognized for their outstanding efforts in advancing their organization’s mission, creating inspiring visions, developing strategies to overcome challenges, and uniting teams to thrive in the evolving world of classical music performance.

Martin was nominated by the Santa Barbara Symphony’s board, staff, and musicians for her remarkable achievements in revitalizing the orchestra following financial and leadership challenges that predated her tenure and were intensified by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Through Martin’s dynamic leadership, The Symphony is bucking national trends. It has a growing base of loyal season ticket subscribers, multi-year pledges of support via the innovative Crescendo program, continuity in the professional staff, a collaborative relationship with its musicians’ union, and dozens of volunteers committed to hosting the professional musicians during concert weeks. Martin’s experience as a turnaround expert with a 30-year career leading nonprofit organizations through times of change and uncertainty uniquely positioned her to help The Symphony advance its mission during and after the pandemic. 

“When an organization becomes clear on its purpose, and that purpose fills an unmet need in the community it serves, great things can happen,” Martin stated. “I am deeply honored to receive the ACSO Executive Leadership Award as a testament to the unwavering dedication and resilience of the entire Santa Barbara Symphony family—our board, staff, musicians, faculty, and community supporters. Together—with our shared vision for artistic excellence and community impact and a belief that The Symphony is for Everyone—we’ve navigated challenges and created opportunities to envision a vibrant and sustainable future for The Symphony to enrich our community.”

ACSO Executive Director Sarah Weber added, “We created this award because oftentimes the work of an orchestra leader is the last to be recognized. In our field, executives spend their time supporting their board members, mentoring and coaching their staff, shining the spotlight on their music director, and collaborating with musicians. They lift up everyone before themselves. But they truly provide a strong backbone and influence the internal culture of any successful orchestra. Kathryn certainly does all that and more for Santa Barbara Symphony, and she is truly deserving of this recognition.”

The Symphony opens its 2024/25 Season on Saturday, October 19, at 7:30 pm and Sunday, October 20, at 3 pm with Tchaikovsky’s Fourth. This immersive concert includes a detailed discussion of the Fourth Symphony and features Pablo Sáinz-Villegas on Spanish guitar performing Rodrigo’s Concierto de Aranjuez. Special pre-sale discount tickets are available until August 30. Subscriptions start at $27 per seat.

For tickets or more information, visit

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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