VSO announces new executive director

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Mon, 06/29/2020 - 8:27am -- Denise Sortor

The Vermont Symphony Orchestra (VSO) announces that following an extensive national and international search, Elise Brunelle has been named as the organization’s new executive director. Brunelle comes to the VSO from South Africa, where she led the country’s largest non-profit performing arts organization, Cape Town Opera, for 16 years — most recently as managing director and previously as a fundraiser and financial manager. Under her leadership, Cape Town Opera expanded its international touring in the Middle East, Asia, Europe and Africa; expanded youth and education programs; commissioned and produced 16 new South African operas; increased singer recruitment from regional townships; and stabilized company finances. Brunelle secured significant contributions to the Opera, including a R1 million (South African rand, approx. $150,000) contribution to its endowment fund within the first month of her career.

Brunelle’s appointment follows a vigorous and competitive search process composed of a six-person committee including board members, staff, and musicians, which assembled after Ben Cadwallader’s departure from the organization in February. The VSO extends their thanks to all involved in the search process.

“From my conversations with Elise,” says VSO Board of Directors Chair Barbara Wessel, “I am confident that she will be a natural and exciting addition both as the VSO’s executive director and as a leader in Vermont‘s musical scene. I so look forward to having her with us.”

Growing up in Minnesota with her father a conductor and as a former violinist herself, Brunelle joins the VSO with a lively background and upbringing in music. Previously spending a couple of months working backstage at the Weston Playhouse, Brunelle is excited to return to Vermont — noting the similarities in friendliness, warmth, and honesty between the people in both states.

“I feel really honored to have this opportunity,” says Brunelle. “I have so many ideas, so many things I want to do. More than anything, I want to talk with people in Vermont’s communities to find out what they would like to see from their VSO.”

Before her career with Cape Town Opera, Brunelle also held leadership positions at Global Art Information, the University of Minnesota School of Music, Guthrie Theatre in Minneapolis, and Walnut Street Theatre in Philadelphia.

“I am thrilled that Elise Brunelle has accepted the position of executive director of the Vermont Symphony Orchestra,” says VSO Music Director Jaime Laredo. “From everything that I have read and heard about her, she sounds fabulous and should be a great leader for our beloved VSO.”

Brunelle will start at the VSO between mid-August and early September, depending on travel restrictions due to the coronavirus pandemic. Orchestral performances will resume under Brunelle’s leadership when determined safe by government health and safety officials. The VSO is currently hosting small outdoor ensemble concerts throughout the state, as well as a Virtual Summer Festival Tour now through July 5 — sharing photos and memories from tours of the past as well as new material for at-home enjoyment. More information is available at www.vso.org/events.

In its 86th year, the VERMONT SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA (VSO) is the nation’s oldest state-assisted symphony orchestra. With a mission to cultivate diverse cultural communities, the VSO celebrates orchestra music as a unifier throughout Vermont and venues of all types. A proactive music education promoter, the VSO’s SymphonyKids programs offer extensive supplemental learning experiences to students across the state every year. The VSO is a unique shared resource in Vermont, belonging to all of the communities it serves.