The Crowd: Arts Orange County leader Richard Stein recognized by Pacific Chorale

Alison Stein and gala honoree Richard Stein.
Alison Stein and gala honoree Richard Stein received Pacific Chorale’s “Entrepreneur in the Arts Lifetime Achievement Award.”
(Matt Gush)

One individual can make a major positive impact on the community. Never doubt that truth. We hear so much about what matters in the general public square, but not enough about genuine leaders whose hard-fought and earned accomplishments matter most because they improve the lives of many.

America has shifted from a culture of exceptionalism to one of accepted mediocracy in search of a more level field of opportunity for many. In this “brave new world” of 21st century cultural revolution, we must find a blending of purpose. Diversity, equity, and inclusion should never sacrifice individual excellence. Both axions must co-exist.

In Orange County that blending of purpose was exhibited in rousing celebration as one community arts organization honored a visionary leader. On May 20, the Pacific Chorale held its 2022-23 season finale concert and gala dinner paying homage to Richard Stein, president and chief executive of Arts Orange County.

Stein is considered a trailblazer for his 14 years of leadership in the O.C. arts community, with special emphasis placed on his arts advocacy during more than two years of pandemic turmoil.

Pacific Chorale President and Chief Executive Officer Andrew Brown and Karen Hogel Brown.
Pacific Chorale President and Chief Executive Officer Andrew Brown and Karen Hogel Brown at the Pacific Chorale gala.
(Matt Gush)

Pacific Chorale President and CEO Andrew Brown joined evening chair Susan Lindley in recognizing Stein with the “Entrepreneur in the Arts Lifetime Achievement Award” at a formal presentation.

“Richard Stein deserves recognition from the entire Orange County community for his incredible dedication to bolstering, advancing and fostering the arts and arts education across the region,” Brown said of the night’s honoree. “That the arts continue to thrive here is in no small measure because Richard has made it his mission to uplift and advocate for local arts organizations small and large. We are deeply grateful to Richard and so proud to recognize him at Pacific Chorale’s gala for his selfless achievements that have enhanced Orange County beyond measure.”

Stein has led Arts Orange County since 2008 addressing the needs of the arts and culture community in Orange County and working with officials on federal, state and local levels to advocate for increased public funding for the arts.

Pacific Chorale Platinum Season sponsors Phil and Mary Lyons attend the gala.
(Matt Gush)

The organization’s advocacy at the start of the pandemic resulted in nearly $2.8 million of relief funds for artists, arts nonprofits and arts-related businesses in Orange County.

Stein previously served as the executive director of the Laguna Playhouse for 17 years and, prior to that, managing director of the Grove Shakespeare Festival. He is a member of UC Irvine’s Claire Trevor School of the Arts Dean’s Arts Board.

The evening Chorale concert at the Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall at Segerstrom Center for the Arts was followed by a gala dinner held at the Avenue of the Arts Hotel, Costa Mesa. The evening was produced under the theme, “A Night in Salzburg.”

Clearly, the program offered influence from Mozart, a native son of the Austrian nation. Chorale Director Robert Istad conducted a stunning “surround sing” in the ballroom of the hotel post-concert, as singers for Pacific Chorale performed selections from Mozart as well as iconic songs from “The Sound of Music.” The crowd was silently mesmerized by the musical embrace.

Supporting the evening and the tribute to Richard Stein joining his wife Alison, were gala committee members Carla Neeld, Pat Newton, Carl Porter, Beth Varney, Julie Virjee and Amanda Whiting.

Circulating the crowd offering thankful appreciation for support, the committee welcomed donors and special guests including Kirsten and Craig Springer, Pacific Chorale board chair Ginger and Arthur Ong, Lynn and Michael Istad, and David Navarro. Pacific Chorale singers in the crowd included Ryan Ratcliff, Ryan Antal, Tom Henley, Anne Henley, Betty I-Chin Feinblatt, Nicolas Preston, Aundi Marie Moore and Michael Sumuel.

The culinary team at Avenue of the Arts Hotel prepared and served an Austrian menu of note. Rather than the traditional three-course banquet fare so very familiar at gala dinners, this evening’s selections were outstanding.

Pacific Chorale Gala Chair Susan Lindley and Chris Lindley at the "A Night in Salzburg" gala May 20.
(Matt Gush)

“The distinctive Austrian menu included wild mushroom strudel with goat cheese and balsamic syrup, and a choice of three entrees — duet of Austrian fried chicken and veal roulades stuffed with carrots and pumpkin seeds served with Hungarian paprika sauce, traditional spaetzli with Gruyere and caramelized onions; trout a la meuniere with lemon, parsley and almonds served with roasted red rosemary potatoes; and vegetarian Napoleon with root vegetable hash. Apple strudel with creamy vanilla sauce completed the meal,” shared publicist Libby Huebner.

Major sponsorship for the Pacific Chorale 2022-23 season came once again from longtime advocates Phillip and Mary Lyons, joining O.C. arts philanthropists Charles and Ling Zhang.

With their generosity and that of the season finale crowd raising some $250,000, the Pacific Chorale will embark on a European tour in July 2023, its first in seven years. Concert performances will be offered in Austria, Germany and the United Kingdom.

Overall, funds raised by Chorale events and outreach benefit public music education and performance accessibility for students throughout Orange County on a year-long basis. To learn more, visit