Who’s Who in the California Pops Orchestra
Board of Directors
Kim Venaas — Founder, Musical Director and Conductor
Responsible for guiding the CPO in fulfilling its mission through musical research, creative programming, selecting soloists and rehearsal preparations for each show. Kim is an experienced conductor, composer and arranger with a background in big band, popular, and symphonic repertoires. Graduated with honors from San Francisco State University with a degree in conducting and musical performance. To note a few, Kim has worked with Ernst Bacon, Carmen Dragon, Denis de Coteau and conducted at venues ranging from Davies Symphony Hall to the Monterey Jazz Festival. Winner of Best Soundtrack for the movie Swing produced by Martin Guigui starring Jacqueline Bisset and Jonathan Winters. Editor of the childrens book The Orchestra by Ruth Spangenberg.
Alicia Wilmunder, CPP — Executive Director & Co-Founder
Responsible for the Pops' business and financial activities. A business and accounting professional who specializes in payroll and accounting systems implementation, she was awarded for her accounting center development. Alicia is a superb cellist, having graduated in cello performance from the Conservatory of Music at University of the Pacific. Her performance highlights include recording with Tony Bennett and K.D. Lang, the Rostropovich Master Class, Beverly Sills, Denis de Coteau, and performing at San Francisco's Davies Symphony Hall, in addition to excelling as the California Pops' Principal Cellist.
Alan Cooper — Board Member
Awarded 2005 MVP by the Association of California Symphony Orchestras. Graduated Westport School of Music, B.S. Geology University of Rochester, M.S. Geology San Jose State University, M.S., Ph.D. Geophysics Stanford University. Emeritus Geophysicist: U.S. Geological Survey. Specialty: Marine geology and geophysics of continental margins and adjacent ocean basins of Antarctica, Bering Sea, Gulf of Mexico, California, and Solomon Islands. Leads the Antarctic Seismic Data Library System for Cooperative Research. Editor of 5 books and author of more than 200 scientific publications. Performs with Fiume di Musica (Principal), Left Bank Trio, Lyric Theater (CM).
Mike Naar — President of the Board
Chief Financial Officer of Embarcadero Media, native Palo Altan and active community supporter. Mike has extensive experience with non-profits and, as a CFO, is a perfect Board Member to help protect the Pops' finances, assuring the Pops continues to be a paragon of fiscal responsibility and donor credibility. Mike, like all Pops Board members, has been a musician and understands the joys and challenges of running a non-profit orchestral organization.
David Ross — Board Member
Consulting Expert in commercial, industrial, institutional, residential and public works construction projects and business operations. Mr. Ross attended Stanford University between 1973 and 1977 and is a Guest Lecturer at the University of California, Berkeley in various subjects related to construction business operations and claims. Dave is an active chamber musician and recitalist in the area, and has recorded with guitarists Mark Hanson and William Ackerman. Before joining the California Pops Orchestra's flute section, he held the principal flute positions with the Foothills Orchestra and the De Anza Symphony Orchestra.
Joe Simitian — Honorary Board Member
Santa Clara County Supervisor and former California State Senator, Joe's dedication to music, the arts and community service is unbounded. His awards are numerous for his work in many areas including schools, youth programs, environment, technology and the community including; the Children's Champion award, Environmental Leadership award even the "Scientific American 50" award.
Wilbur Wong — Board Member
Wilbur is a professor of mathematics at Foothill College and principal violist of the California Pops Orchestra. He enjoys helping the orchestra with the transition to the San Mateo Performing Arts Center and performing great music with the orchestra.
Vic Befera — Marketing Consultant
Vic Befera graduated from Michigan State University in Journalism and took his first job with the Palo Alto Times. In 1953, Vic joined the San Francisco Chronicle to handle restaurant and entertainment news and advertising. Among his lasting contributions was the "Nevada Scene" column in the Sunday Datebook section, which Vic originated and wrote weekly, reporting on the hottest nightlife in Reno and Vegas. In 1966, Vic founded Vic Befera & Associates, one of the region's busiest public relations firms, specializing in entertainment, with clients ranging from Bimbo's 365 Club to the Oakland Coliseum.
Frank Bravo — Web Development and Data Management
Responsible for designing and developing the California Pops Orchestra website and assisting with Pops' data management. Frank is a technologist. He is the Director of IT and Webmaster at Embarcadero Media, as well as running a successful consulting business as Bravo IT Consulting, where Stella (his Australian Labradoodle also pictured) serves as the CCO (Chief Canine Officer).
Julian Brown — Concertmaster
Concertmaster of the California Pops Orchestra. Born in the United Kingdom, Julian studied the violin under the British violinist Anthony Saltmarsh and has followed a multi-faceted career as musician, radio producer, science writer, software engineer, and scientist. After studying physics at the University of Cambridge, England he worked at the BBC in London as a radio producer making talks and documentaries about science and technology. After leaving the BBC, Julian worked as a science writer and wrote several popular science books including Minds, Machines, and the Multiverse, an account of the history and science of quantum computation. In 1998 he came to the United States and worked for several years as a software engineer before joining Stanford University where he has worked for the last six years in a brain research lab. Throughout these times Julian has pursued a second life as an active musician playing in several orchestras and chamber ensembles.
Sarah Gandt — Social Media Development
Responsible for designing and developing the California Pops Orchestra social media online accounts with Twitter, Facebook and others. A graduate in Music from the University of California at Berkeley, Sarah has been playing cello in the California Pops on and off since the early 2000's. Her professional background in online marketing and marketing analytics is enabling the Pops to upgrade its behind-the-scenes infrastructure.
Carol Holsinger — Orchestra's Social Coordinator
Linda Nystrom — Grants Administration
Responsible for managing fundraising activities and corporate sponsorship in coordination with the Orchestra's Social Coordinator. Linda received her MPH at the University of Pittsburgh and MBA from Thunderbird, Graduate School of international Management. An employee of IBM in Sales and Marketing for over 21 years. Volunteer experience includes being on the Board of Directors and President of Arts Rolla (MO) for 6 years and an advisor to Board for the California Pops Orchestra. She is a Violinist with the California Pops Orchestra who has also performed with orchestras including those at the Illinois University, Wilkensburg, Guayaquil, University of Missouri Rolla orchestra and the Playa Pops.
Debbie Rimerman — Pops House Manager
Responsible for managing all activities in the theater including lobby information center, will call, emergency needs, customer service and press relations on show day. Deb's experienced in business accounting and is a senior lifestyle educator, development and events manager. Her project management skills involved in these highly collaborative areas serves her and the Pops well both on Show Day and in show preparation and volunteer management.
Bob Runnels — Assistant Conductor and Board Advisor
Pops' lead trumpeter Bob Runnels also helps out behind the podium as our Assistant Conductor. Bob started playing trumpet at the age of 9. He graduated from the UOP Music Conservatory taught by Dr. Dale Fjerstad and was a featured soloist with the UOP Wind Ensemble. Bob continued studying with Bob O'Donnell and Uan Rasey while playing in Southern California and then moved to the Bay Area and studied with Claude Gordon for seven years. Bob studied composition with Shirley Woodward, Dr. Stan Beckler and Rowan Taylor. He has performed with a diverse assortment of ensembles; in the jazz vein, he was a member of The Johnny Lampson Orchestra and The Adrian Davis Orchestra. In the classical vein, has performed in the Modesto, Stockton, Redwood and the Peninsula Symphonies. He has also performed with BJ Thomas, Joel Grey, Blackstone the Magician and Bobby Shew. Bob is also a regular member of the the Black Tie Jazz Band and The E-Ticket Band, a classic rock rock band.
More “Behind the Scenes” Heroes
The Pops' Active Community Group Outreach
- Wilbur Wong, Team Leader
- Alan Cooper
- Linda Nystrom
- Janina Romiszewska
- Heidi Sjolund
- Julianne Stafford
- Joan Del Secco
- Kevin Holsinger, Sound Engineer
- Sam Huie, Photographer
- The Spangenberg Family
CPO Production Team
- Alan Cooper
- Ray Mar
- Linda Nystrom
- Janina Romanowski
CPO Box Office & Lobby Info Center Assistants
- Deb Rimerman, CA Pops House Manager
- Gary Ehle
- Margery Morse
- Sarah Pribble
- Monica Schefski
In memory of former Members of the Board
Carol Channing (2019)
A Broadway Tony Award winning actress dedicated to preserving music education in California schools, Carol is famous for her performances on Broadway and San Francisco stages of Hello Dolly, Gentlemen Prefer Blonds, Thoroughly Modern Millie and many more. She has appeared in several movies. A fond favorite as a television star, Carol was a tireless entertainer and promoter of popular music and music education.
Steve Morse (2019)
Steve was a research and development engineer with St. Jude Medical, Inc. holding 19 patents for his medical device designs.
Ruth Spangenberg (2011)
"Education is a great leveler. It makes us equal." An amazing supporter of education, music, arts and the community along with Board Member of Stanford University and John F. Kennedy University. Received the 1996 Samaritan award.
Leonard Ely (2011)
A tremendous community leader. His numerous awards include the CFSV Spirit of Philanthropy Award, the Palo Alto Tall Tree Award, and a Gold Spike Award and Centennial Medallion from Stanford.