Santa Barbara Symphony Orchestra Association Announces New Board Members

Paksy Plackis-Cheng to Serve as President for a Second Term

The Symphony’s elected officers include: Stefan Riesenfeld, Immediate Past President; Arthur Swalley, Vice President; David Chernof, M.D., Secretary; Brett Moore, Treasurer; Karen Kerns, Counsel; Susan Spector, Development Chair. The Executive Committee will be formed by the elected officers, Gene Sinser and Peter Schlueer, Members-at-Large. In addition, Ex-Officio Member, David Grossman, Executive Director and Ex-Officio Member, Maestro Nir Kabaretti, Music and Artistic Director.

During the first year of Plackis-Cheng’s tenure, the Executive Committee focused on good governance, strengthening development, managing a leadership transition and diversifying the organization and audience. The Board consists of 31 members, one third of whom are 55 years of age and younger. This is an unusually young demographic for a performing arts board. Plackis-Cheng also partnered with the Board Presidents of the Granada Theatre and Opera Santa Barbara to collaborate on driving best practices and sustainability for the participating organizations.

In celebration of its 60th anniversary, the 2012-13 concert season featured guest artists including National Medal of Arts winner pianist Andre Watts; acclaimed flutist Demarre McGill; New York Philharmonic Concertmaster Glenn Dicterow and Principal Viola Cynthia Phelps; rising piano virtuoso Xiayin Wang; sought-after international conductor Gregory Vayda; the young California violin phenomenon Nigel Armstrong and the young composer Jonathan Leshnoff. The 60th season also included two collaborative performances with the State Street Ballet and the Santa Barbara Choral Society. A special performance with Opera Santa Barbara took place for the 5th year Granada Renovation Gala.

The classical music performances are but one part of the organization. The other part is the Symphony’s Music Education Suite, consisting of seven programs serving 4,500 students from grade three through high school. One of the programs is a successful participatory String Workshop provided in all nine of the Goleta Union School District Elementary Schools. The Symphony is also proud of its award-winning Music Van serving 49 schools and Youth Symphony, comprised of 65-70 students from 12 to 18 years of age from all over Santa Barbara County.

Plackis-Cheng: “I am grateful to the Symphony patrons, donors, staff and Board for their continuous support of the vibrant Santa Barbara Symphony Orchestra. Building upon the great artistic excellence of Nir Kabaretti and the orchestra, we have been able to offer much more than classical music performances and a stage for new works and new talents. We nurture music education in the community, which is a critical responsibility now that there are limited resources for schools to fulfill this role.” In the new season, the Santa Barbara community will witness even stronger artistic and business collaborative efforts, and even more focus on music education programs.”

Commented Jesse Rosen, president and CEO of the League of American Orchestras, “Paksy Plackis-Cheng and her colleagues at the Santa Barbara Symphony are among a new generation of young leaders who are helping orchestras embrace innovation in order to better serve their communities with great musical experiences. The Symphony is fortunate to benefit from their skills and dedication.”

In addition to the 4,500 children it serves, the Santa Barbara Symphony employs an average 200 people, and reaches over 25,000 Santa Barbara residents every season.

The Santa Barbara Symphony Officers

Paksy Plackis-Cheng, President of the Board

Paksy Plackis-Cheng served as the Interim Executive Director of the Santa Barbara Symphony in 2010-2011 and was responsible for all aspects of Symphony management, operations and planning. Prior to her Interim post, she was the Vice President of the Board.

Paksy successfully developed, deployed and managed marketing strategy and functions in 11 countries for high technology companies. She served in management positions for Openwave Systems Europe, Middle East and Africa. Her career also includes key international marketing management positions at Banyan Systems and consulting for notable software companies in Europe, managing enterprise relationships with HP, IBM and Microsoft. At age 27 she was named Business Star by the German Computer Partner magazine, an IDG publications. Paksy Plackis-Cheng also serves on the Board of Opera Santa Barbara.

Paksy Plackis-Cheng, a Dutch native, earned her B.A. from the Erasmus University, Faculty of Economics, the Netherlands. She completed the Human Resource Management program at the Institute for Higher Professional Education at the Hogeschool Rotterdam, and studied at the Academy of Art University, San Francisco. Paksy is fluent in English, Chinese and Dutch.

Stefan Riesenfeld, Immediate Past President

Stefan Riesenfeld has served in executive financial and management roles at top technology companies in London, New York and California, including senior vice president and chief financial officer at Asia Global Crossing, an international telecommunications company; executive vice president and chief financial officer at Teledyne Technologies; chief financial officer at International Computers Ltd.; vice president and corporate treasurer at Unisys Corporation; and assistant vice president at Chemical Bank. Riesenfeld holds an MBA with honors from Stanford Graduate School of Business, a master’s degree in economics from Stanford University and a bachelor’s degree in physics from the California Institute of Technology.

Arthur Swalley, Vice President

Arthur Swalley is a founding partner and director of investments for Arlington Financial Advisors, a Santa Barbara-based wealth planning firm. Arthur holds a bachelor’s degree in music from Yale University and a CIMA designation from the Wharton School. Arthur is a past treasurer and current member of the Scholarship Foundation of Santa Barbara board, member of the Santa Barbara Music Club board, and completed a term as Vice President of the Santa Barbara Symphony Board. Swalley lives in Santa Barbara with his wife and two sons.

David Chernof, M.D., Secretary

Dr. David Chernof is an honors graduate of Harvard University. After receiving his M.D. degree and specialty training in internal medicine from UCLA Medical School, he served as a captain in the U.S. Army Medical Corps. Thereafter, he was a staff member of the City of Hope, and then entered private practice in Northridge, having become board certified in internal medicine, hematology, medical oncology and geriatrics, and a Fellow of the American College of Physicians.

During this period, he was medical staff president of Northridge Hospital and later president of the Los Angeles County Medical Association. In 1991, Dr. Chernof left medical practice to become senior vice president for medical affairs for Blue Cross of California. In 1995 he retired, but later served for several years as the founding medical director of the L.A. Care Health Plan. Since coming to the Santa Barbara area 12 years ago he served as Medical Director for the Ventura County Health Care Plan for several years. Dr. Chernof has maintained his connection with the UCLA (now the David Geffen) School of Medicine. He has served as associate professor of medicine, and for the past 11 years has taught, with others, a course for first year medical students called “Doctoring.” He is currently Board President of the Santa Barbara based Adventures in Caring Foundation.

Brett Moore, Treasurer

Brett Moore is a portfolio manager with Dunvegan Associates, Inc., a wealth management firm in Santa Barbara. Moore attended the Dalton School, in New York, and earned a BSM and MBA from Tulane University. Moore currently serves as a Trustee for the Symphony’s Endowment Trust. Moore enjoys the arts, the water, and his two boys Nathan (10) and Ari (8).

Karen Kerns, Counsel

Karen Kerns is an attorney whose practice includes business and real estate, specifically contracts, syndication, and negotiation. She spent her early career in litigation and insurance defense work, followed by 10 years as general counsel for a national real estate investment trust. Currently, Kerns provides counsel to several small businesses and focuses much of her time on music and the arts education in Santa Barbara. Prior to law school at the University of Denver, Ms. Kerns was an instrumental music teacher and holds a bachelor of music in addition to her JD. Kerns has been an active director for the Santa Barbara Symphony since 2009, chairing the education committee and serving on the executive committee. Other current local board service includes the education & outreach committee for the Santa Barbara Bowl Foundation, interviewing scholarship applicants for the Scholarship Foundation of Santa Barbara and as chair of the Measure H Parcel Tax Citizen’s Oversight Committee for the Santa Barbara Unified School District. Kerns previously served as a director for CASA and served one 4-year term on the board of trustees for the Montecito Union School District, where she was appointed to the state’s Small School Districts Advisory Committee by the state board of education.

Susan Spector, Development Chair

Susan Spector is a retired U.S. Department of State interpreter-translator with a second career as Development Director at independent schools and the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra. She holds a B.A. from Sarah Lawrence College and received her interpreting/translating training at the Georgetown University School of Languages and Linguistics. Her community service record includes: founding member and Board President, Washington, DC, Ronald McDonald House; International Board of Directors, Ronald McDonald Children’s Charities; Board of Directors, Children’s Hospice International, Washington, DC; Board of Directors, Enterprise Women’s Network, Baltimore, MD; Board member and Development Chair, Norwood School, Bethesda, MD. A resident of Santa Barbara since 2007, Susan is a docent at the Santa Barbara Botanic

Garden and Arroyo Hondo Preserve; certified California Master Gardener; and Executive Committee member, Santa Barbara County Master Gardener Program.

About The Santa Barbara Symphony

Celebrating 60 years of great music, the Santa Barbara Symphony Orchestra Association was founded on the belief that a special city deserves a special orchestra. The Symphony has been celebrated for its unique ability to deliver brilliant orchestral concerts while maintaining a strong commitment to education and community engagement. With audiences almost twice the size of any orchestra in the Santa Barbara area, the Santa Barbara Symphony is, according to Mayor Helene Schneider, “A jewel in Santa Barbara’s crown.”

The Santa Barbara Symphony’s next season will open October 12, 2013 with Wagner’s Tannhauser, Rouse’s Percussion Concerto, and Holst’s The Planets. Secure tickets now for the best seats at the Granada Theatre. For more information, please visit or call 805-898-9386.


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