Hidden from small

Lisa Yakulis: In the Spotlight

November 01, 2016

A Monthly Profile of Orchestra Fans and Family

Lisa Yakulis, the new president of the Orchestra Volunteer Committees, may hail from Wisconsin, but she’s a lifelong Philadelphia Orchestra fan. Her first experience hearing the Philadelphians live—when she was a college student in the ’80s, and the Orchestra was still playing in the Academy of Music—was unforgettable. 

“I remember chills from the warmth and the vibrancy of the music,” she says. “The sound of The Philadelphia Orchestra in the Academy, it was almost a spiritual experience.”

After moving to the Philadelphia area in 1998, Lisa almost immediately became involved with the Volunteer Committees. She’s held numerous leadership positions—including president of the Main Line Committee for four years—all with the mission to help the Orchestra not only raise money, but also broaden its reach. In pursuit of that second goal, it was during a recent trip “home” to visit her daughter in Madison that she had a bit of an epiphany. Mother and daughter attended one of the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra’s Wednesday night summer Concerts on the Square outside the capitol building; 40,000 people showed up.

“It was crazy. It was amazing,” Lisa says. “I called the development office the next day, I was so excited. I said, ‘We need to do this in Philadelphia.’ I saw everything from families—little kids on blankets—to teenagers, to college students, to tables set up with older people because they were entertaining for corporate purposes—40,000 people.”

She adds, “It was so exciting to see. So you know it can be done.”

Getting it done is one of Lisa’s goals in her new role. Over the two years of her tenure, she hopes to galvanize volunteer efforts to expand the Orchestra’s audience.

“Yannick brings a special gift to the city,” she says. “Once people hear the Orchestra and what it offers, they’ll come. But they just need to be pulled into these venues that they feel comfortable with to have that experience.”

Among Lisa’s successes so far is the 2015 Opening Night Gala, which she co-chaired along with Henry Nassau.

“We actually almost doubled the size of the audience from the year before,” she says. “The hall felt full and exciting to the musicians, and we got people there that typically would not have gone to that event.”

It was an elegant, exciting, and celebratory night, Lisa says, that honored tradition and met the expectations of longtime supporters, but also attracted a broader—and younger—audience than in the past.

“We know we can do both—and that’s really what the Orchestra is trying to accomplish. And that’s one of my goals. To help that happen.”

With help from the entire volunteer force, of course. Lisa has high praise for all of her colleagues who give so generously of their time.

“What struck me from the very beginning was this extraordinary group of volunteers—and this is across all the committees—it’s an extraordinary group of women, all ages, from all over the city that work in such a collaborative and heartfelt, exuberant way, not just with each other and amongst the committees but also with the musicians. They have such an absolute love for the Orchestra and really want to contribute in any and every way that they can, not only financially but in a very hands-on, involved way.”

Want to get involved? Lisa says she’d like to see the volunteer base expand as well, to encompass the younger generation, and a broader geographic area.

“Anybody can be on a committee,” she says. “Our goal is to attract and enable as many committed volunteers to participate in a meaningful way as we can.”

For more information contact Dorothy Byrne, volunteer relations manager, at dbyrne@philorch.org or 215.893.3124.

“We’ll make sure that they get connected to the specific committee that might make sense for them,” Lisa says.

“It is an incredible honor and a privilege to be asked to serve in this capacity. I have so much respect for all of the volunteers, the musicians, the Board members, administrators, and all who are involved with the Orchestra family. To be asked to participate as a leader within this organization is a true honor.”