The Commercial-News, Danville, IL

February 25, 2013

New Director

Excited about orchestra’s future

BY MARY WICOFF
Commercial-News

DANVILLE — Staci Disney-Walker has fond memories of going to Danville Symphony Orchestra concerts with her grandmother in recent years. Now, as the new executive director, she said, “I’d like other people to have the same enthusiasm.”

Disney-Walker is in a position to promote the orchestra, which she describes as “remarkable” for the area. The orchestra is fortunate to have so many talented musicians, as well as music director and conductor, Jeremy Swerling.

“We want to carry on the great reputation,” she said.

Disney-Walker started her job just last week, so she’s still learning about the organization and how it works, she said. She replaces Jennifer Dixson, who resigned as director in December after nearly six years.

When Disney-Walker saw the advertisement, she decided to apply because the orchestra has had a special place in her life. Her grandmother, Thelma Spencer of Fithian, had always bought season tickets, and both loved going to the concerts.

“I’m excited to be on board and starting a new chapter in my life,” she said. “I’m excited about getting to know the people from the area.”

That enthusiasm is one quality that helped land her the job.

Marla Bauerle-Hill, board president, said of Disney-Walker, “She comes to us with tons of enthusiasm. She’s such a personable person — always happy and optimistic about the symphony and what she can do for us.”

Disney-Walker will have some big shoes to fill, coming in after Dixson, who was a very good director, Bauerle-Hill said. “The whole board is looking forward to working with her.”

She added, “She is in there with both feet and I think she’ll be great.”

One thing Disney-Walker likes about the orchestra is that there’s something for everybody — from classical to popular entertainment. Recent programs have included Irish song and dance, and the Chicago Brass Quintet and upcoming programs of classical music and a tribute to Maurice Chevalier.

“You can pick and choose what you want to see,” she said.

On April 20, its big fundraiser gala will be staged at the David S. Palmer Arena, featuring Cirque de la Symphonie.

As executive director, Disney-Walker oversees the part-time staff and volunteers, reports to the board, manages the budget, sets up fundraisers, works with guest artists and handles marketing, concessions and ticket sales, and other duties. She handles all the business aspects, while Swerling handles the musical side.

A native of Oakwood, Disney-Walker graduated from Oakwood High School in 1987; she and Mary Wright started the Oakwood Times.

Growing up, she took voice and piano lessons and played the saxophone in the school band. She occasionally plays the sax and guitar in the praise band at Faith Church in Fairmount.

She earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism and fine arts from Indiana University, and did freelance graphic design work until her children were born. When the boys started school in 2004, she went to work at the Vermilion County Farm Bureau as the agriculture literacy adviser, and held that job for eight years.

She’s now working on her master’s degree in organizational leadership from Lincoln Christian University.

She and her husband, James Walker, have two sons, Clayton, 15, and Riley, 11. The family has livestock on its farm near Oakwood, and Disney-Walker has learned to make cheese and can food. She also shows her creative side by decorating cakes for family and friends.

FYI

Learn more at http://www.danvillesymphony.org. Its office is at 149 N. Vermilion St., and its phone number is 443-5300.

Staci Disney-Walker wants to hear comments, good and bad, about the symphony, as well as suggestions for programs. E-mail her at swalker.dso@gmail.com.