Passing The Baton
Sacramento Philharmonic & Opera welcomes new leadership
By Jessica Laskey
Giuliano Kornberg’s excitement is palpable.
After five years as the Sacramento Philharmonic & Opera’s go-to fundraiser, Kornberg has stepped into the role of executive director.
“I’m incredibly fortunate,” Kornberg says of his selection to succeed Alice Sauro, a fellow Minnesota native who helped the organization reach new heights during her nearly seven-year tenure. “The board could have looked for a more experienced person—I’m only 28—but I had the very lucky combination of knowing people, being here for five years and having a really supportive boss, organization, staff and board. I’m so honored, it’s really humbling.”
Kornberg started his journey with the symphony and opera at 23 as a part-time fundraiser in 2016 after earning his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Stanford. A percussion musician since childhood, Kornberg decided as an undergrad to pursue music instead of political science. He dove into playing, composing and conducting before earning his master’s in music, science and technology.
Once he realized arts administration was the perfect marriage of his love of music and organization, he interned with the San Francisco Opera to “see what it was like to work for an arts organization with an $80 million budget,” he says. After the internship, plus a training program through the League of American Orchestras, he sent out emails to arts organizations to find his next position.
Sauro wrote back and invited Kornberg to interview for a fundraising position. The organization had recently completed a merger to ameliorate the financial struggles of the Sacramento Philharmonic and Sacramento Opera brought on by the 2008 recession. Kornberg moved to Midtown and hit the ground running.
It didn’t take long for his youthful enthusiasm and strong work ethic to bump Kornberg into the position of chief revenue and development officer in December 2020. He helped implement strategies for generating revenue through major donor cultivation and stewardship, corporate sponsorships, foundations, government grants, planned giving and box office sales.
He doubled the organization’s annual fund, increased endowment and planned gift commitments by 50 percent, raised hundreds of thousands of dollars in COVID-relief funds and helped achieve a balanced budget for the past four years.
“It’s wonderful that the board and the staff are so invested and understand the importance of fundraising and cultivating support to make sure we have funds to do the cool stuff we want to do,” Kornberg says. “During COVID, when there were no performances, I had the opportunity to learn more about the marketing aspect, like fundraising through emails and brochures.
“In the first half of 2021, we were able to sell tickets and subscriptions and crank up the box office again, so my role became overseeing COVID relief, marketing and earned revenue, as well as patron and donor relations. It’s been incredible to have someone like Alice allow me to learn and grow.”
That learning switched into hyperdrive as Kornberg prepared to take over for his beloved mentor, who moved to Las Vegas for her husband’s job. The transition has included lots of reading, familiarization with labor relations, understanding contracts, learning about operations, building relationships with the musicians and talking to donors and patrons about why they love the philharmonic and opera.
“It’s like drinking from a fire hose,” Kornberg says. “But I have an orchestra network of people and resources I can go to with questions and I still talk to Alice—she wants to make sure I’m as successful as possible. I’m really excited. I love this organization, I love Sacramento and I love the SP&O. We exist to play music in this community.”
SP&O presents “Romantic Rachmaninoff” March 5. For tickets and information, visit sacphilopera.org.
Jessica Laskey can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram: @insidesacramento.