Volunteers in the Arts (VITA) Awards
Dominion and WQED Multimedia Partner to Promote the Arts in Southwestern Pennsylvania.
For 24 years, the Dominion VITA (Volunteer In the Arts) Awards, coordinated by WQED Multimedia, has honored dedicated individuals who have given their time and talents to ensure that the arts thrive in our region.
“The VITA Awards recognize the vitality volunteers bring to arts organizations,” said James Mesloh, executive director of the Dominion Foundation. “It is no surprise that Western Pennsylvania has wonderful arts organizations – it has wonderful arts volunteers. Dominion is proud to help honor them.”
A committee of Pittsburgh area professionals interested in celebrating this invaluable volunteer arts force selects the winners. Since its inception in 1988 Dominion has honored more than 240 volunteers from more than 170 arts organizations throughout western Pennsylvania. As a result numerous individuals and their organizations have been given recognition on WQED-TV, WQED-FM 89.3 and at the annual VITA Awards reception.
“As the nation’s first community-supported broadcaster, WQED has always relied on volunteers for support,” said Deborah L. Acklin, president and chief executive officer of WQED Multimedia. “Without dedication from members of the community, no arts organization could survive. We are so pleased that with Dominion we have been able to recognize, thank and be the voice for volunteers who have given of their time, talents and energy to support the non-profit arts community in Pittsburgh and the surrounding region.”
The 2012 VITA Award honorees are:
Judy Eckler – Greenville Symphony Orchestra
Judy Eckler is president of the Greenville Symphony Society (GSS) where she also served as its librarian and producer of the Greenville Area Community Theatre. Under her leadership, the Greenville Symphony Orchestra (GSO) has evolved from “your grandfather’s orchestra” to more innovative programming offering something for every taste. Committed to developing a love of all musical genres and the arts in children, Judy developed a special program with the GSO for students of the Keystone Blind Association and continues to offer free regular concerts to area students along with her GSS board of directors. When Judy isn’t cultivating a love of music and the arts she enjoys being a “mother” to the hundreds of children her Family Daycare Home has served since 1970 as well as a wife, mother and grandmother.
Alex Jones – Pittsburgh Philharmonic
Alex Jones has been principal clarinetist of the Pittsburgh Philharmonic since 2005 where he has served as a guest conductor, featured soloist, president of the board of directors from 2008-2010, and acting artistic director from 2010-2011. In 2003 Alex, co-founded the Aeolian Winds of Pittsburgh and the Morningside Trio in 2006, both of which have been featured on Classical WQED-FM 89.3’s Performance in Pittsburgh. A recipient of the John Phillip Sousa Award, Distinguished Service Award of the ACM SIGDA and Pitt Innovator Award, Alex is a noted researcher at the University of Pittsburgh where he currently serves as director of the undergraduate Computer Engineering program, has raised over three million dollars in funding and written more than 70 publications.
Sam Newbury – Chatham Baroque
Sam Newbury has been a leader at Chatham Baroque for the past decade. Sam has helped to develop and obtain funding for a competition where three new pieces of music were created for Chatham Baroque and a school program at McCleary Pre-K Center. He has increased Chatham Baroque’s exposure by producing its first high-definition music video and DVD and secured new funding and volunteer support as president of the board of directors. Recently retired from 30 years of service as a public television professional at Family Communications, Inc. (Fred Rogers Company) where he produced Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, Sam creates wood-fired, functional pottery in porcelain and stoneware in his spare time.
George Seeley – Mendelssohn Choir of Pittsburgh
George Seeley retired in 2006 and has been actively involved with the Mendelssohn Choir of Pittsburgh board of directors ever since. A member of the John McMillan Presbyterian Church choir for more than 20 years George has served his church as corporation president, ruling elder and led a pastoral nominating committee. Actively involved in his Bethel Park community for 43 years, George was president of the Bethel Park Band Boosters twice. A graduate of Cornell University and veteran of the United States Army, George resides with his wife Marcia with whom he has two sons and a daughter.
Katya R. Shaffer – Greensburg Civic Theatre
Katya R. Shaffer was born and raised in Berlin, Germany and has been involved in theater since the age of five when she auditioned for Annie. Katya performed throughout Europe as part of the International Schools Theatre Association until graduation and moved to Greensburg, Pennsylvania where she obtained her bachelor’s in Theatre Performance and Scenic Design from Seton Hill University. While a student at Seton Hill she discovered the Greensburg Civic Theatre where she has since volunteered her time for the past 11 years. For the past three years, Katya has served as president of the board of directors and has overseen the productions of such shows as Cabaret and A Piece of My Heart. Katya is currently directing the Theatre’s upcoming musical, I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change and hopes to continue helping the Theatre to grow. Katya is married with three children.