Dorothy Micheletti

DSCF0880By Scott MacClelland

TO GET HER to admit pride in her 14 years as Youth Music Monterey County’s board president takes some arm-twisting. Dorothy Micheletti has provided and sustained the longest and most successful leadership in YMMC’s history, but she feels much more comfortable demurring her contributions instead to her fellow board members, past and current, and the two music directors with whom she has worked, Farkhad Khudyev and his predecessor Larry Granger.

Meanwhile, the flourishing relationship between YMMC and the Monterey Symphony seems to have attracted interest beyond the Monterey Bay. Last weekend’s Symphony concert, in which 25 YMMC students joined the orchestra for Charles Ives’ Second Symphony, will become part of an upcoming PBS documentary. (Camera crews were on hand at Carmel’s Sunset Center on Sunday and for the repeat performance for school students on Monday.)

That MS/YMM relationship began, uncomfortably, when Clark Suttle was music director of the Symphony and Joe Truskot was its executive. Truskot and the orchestra’s musicians felt their standards would be compromised and treated the student musicians with suspicion. That was before Micheletti’s election to chair her board, which took place right after the 9/11 disasters in New York, Pennsylvania and Washington DC. At the time she was a board member and mother of two daughters who were student musicians in the program, violinist Genevieve, who rose to become the Honors Orchestra concertmaster, and Gabrielle who played piano and orchestral percussion.

It wasn’t until after Max Bragado-Darman was hired as Symphony music director, and Micheletti became YMM board chair, that the relationship began to see the results of dedicated nurturing.

In her early years as board chair, Micheletti got the word from foundations that she needed to diversify, that YMM had come to depend too heavily on their support. “We were at 74 percent in grants and foundation funding,” she says, and was told, “We want to see you at 40 percent.” So she attracted a team that set out to create a new fundraising model, which became known as the Angel Network. Individual supporters who committed to $500 per year (Angels) or $1,000 per year (Archangels) enjoy preferred seating for YMMC concerts (the ‘C’ was added when YMM decided to change its name to Youth Music Monterey County), an annual wine and hors d’oeuvres reception following the spring concert, and an invitation to attend a student chamber music program in the home of one of the major Angels or Archangels. Those who took the lead in creating the Angel Network included John Krasznekewicz, Pam McGowan and Georgia Navarez. Together they turned a major page in the history of the institution.

Today, with Micheletti’s leadership—and currently serving as interim executive director—YMMC operates the Junior Youth and senior Honors Orchestras, the South County Strings program that reaches over 200 students in mostly rural areas, the Chamber Players program and Brass & Woodwind Ensembles. Music director Farkhad Khuyev, who conducts the orchestras, is joined in these endeavors by area professional musician/educators, not least Erica Horn, Dorothy Wu, Suzanne Mudge (well-known director of Tower Music for the Carmel Bach Festival), Hillary Orzel, John Orzel and, new to the area, Greg Smith, “A wonderful trumpet player from the Hyannis Symphony in Massachusetts.”

When Micheletti was elected board chair she had nowhere near the skills she has today but was willing “to give it a shot.” A task that became clear early on was an overhaul of the YMM database which had not been well-maintained for a long period. At the same time she was wise enough to know not to interfere with the music director who, in both Granger and Khudyev, only needed the institutional strength to support what they already knew their job to be. Since they had been properly vetted, she says, “I trust them. If you find you need to manage the music director, maybe you have the wrong person.” Moreover, she had the full ‘man behind the curtain’ support from her husband, Patrick, and additional leadership skills emerging from their two daughters. “We were a family business,” she says. And, as a parent of young musicians, “I had a vested interest in making sure the students got what they needed.”

Reflecting on the most recent YMMC orchestra concert, which featured Vietnamese composer/performer Vân Ánh Võ (See Music Reviews, Nov 10), Micheletti remarks on Khudyev’s skills. “It’s astounding to see how quickly he sizes up his resources and how fast the students catch on as well. He doesn’t just react, but puts in a lot of thought.”

On the stage at Sunset Center, where the orchestras perform, Micheletti always reminds the audience that their ongoing support is essential for the YMMC program to remain healthy. Tuitions are collected from the families of student participants and scholarships are available under specific criteria. Even families of very limited means are expected to contribute their share of support. “Somebody came up to me after a concert and gave me a gift, then added it was a shame that [such an appeal] had to be done,” she says. “Actually, it’s a privilege.”

What most people involved with YMMC, including many of its longtime supporters, don’t know is that Micheletti is also a full-time intensive-care nurse at Community Hospital of the Monterey Peninsula. Personally, I find her a truly extraordinary woman and a pleasure to know.

One last thought: under Larry Granger, YMMC gave the Monterey Bay premiere of Beethoven’s Chorale Fantasy, for piano, chorus and orchestra, and under Farkhad Khudyev, the Monterey Bay premiere of Symphony No.7 by Sibelius.