Who’s Who in the California Pops Orchestra

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Board of Directors

Kim Venaas — 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

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 (34 years). Consulting Professor: Stanford University Department of Geological and Environmental Sciences. Specialty: Marine geology and geophysics of continental margins and adjacent ocean basins of Antarctica, Bering Sea, Gulf of Mexico, California, and Solomon Islands. Head of Antarctic Seismic Data Library System for Cooperative Research. Editor of 4 books and author of more than 200 scientific publications. Performs with Fiume di Musica (Principal), Left Bank, the San Andreas Trio and the famous Duckweed String Band.

Steve Morse — Board Member

Until recently Steve was a research and development engineer with St. Jude Medical, Inc. holding 19 patents for his medical device designs. A past member of the Board of Directors of the Sequoia Yacht Club and the Bair Island Aquatic Center, Steve received a Bachelor of Arts degree with honors from San Jose State University. Steve also was a Pops’ percussionist for a number of years and in an earlier life was a jazz saxophonist. Currently, in addition to his Pops Board duties, he is a prolific artist working in mixed media for paintings and sculptures.

Mike Naar — Board Member

Chief Financial Officer of Embarcadero Publishing, 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.

Joe Simitian — Honorary Board Member

Santa Clara County Superviser 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.

Carol Channing — Honorary Board Member

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 is a tireless entertainer and promoter of popular music and music education.

Ruth Spangenberg — Board Member in Memorial

“Education is a great leveler. It makes us equal.”
Ruth Spangenberg was an amazing supporter of education, music, arts and the community. She successfully brought up 6 children when her husband Karl died in 1964. She immediately went to work re-entering Stanford University. By summer 1965 she earned a Masters in counseling and guidance and started her private family therapy practice. She was on the Board of Regents of John F. Kennedy University. and founded the Samaritan Counseling Center of the Mid-Peninsula, receiving the 1996 Samaritan award.

Leonard Ely — Board Member in Memorial

Leonard Ely was 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. He has endowed a chair in the Economics Department and has a building named after him at Castilleja School. Ely served on the board of the Palo Alto Weekly starting in 1985. Past President of Ely Motor Company, Leonard was also active at Stanford, working on its centennial campaign, for its historical society, alumni association, business school and athletic department.

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Management Team

Alicia Wilmunder, CPP — Executive Director

Responsible for the Pops’ business and financial activities including budgets and accounting, contracts, insurance, financial reporting and tax filing. A business and accounting professional who specializes in payroll and accounting systems implementation, she was awarded for her accounting center development. Alicia also oversees talent recruiting, the music library, and graphic design for the Pops.

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.

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 — Web Development and Data Management

Responsible for designing and developing the California Pops Orchestra website and assisting with Pops’ data management. 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.

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 education, 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 Symphony, Stockton Symphony, Redwood Symphony and the Peninsula Symphony. 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.

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More “Behind the Scenes” Heroes

Supporting Angels

  • Sam Huie, Photographer
  • Joan Del Secco
  • Sarah Pribble, Music Library Assistant
  • The Spangenberg Family

CPO Production Team

  • Alan Cooper
  • Ray Mar

CPO Box Office & Lobby Info Center Assistants

  • Deb Rimerman, CA Pops House Manager
  • Paul Beckmann
  • Steve Morse