skip to Main Content


Nathaniel Berman
Music Director

Nathaniel Berman maintains an active presence as a performer and music educator in the San Francisco Bay Area. A faculty member at UC Santa Cruz since 2007, he is conductor of the UCSC Concert Choir and the UCSC Wind Ensemble and has appeared as guest conductor of the UCSC Orchestra and the University Opera Theater. Nathaniel has held the position of Music Director of the Santa Cruz County Youth Symphony since 2010 and has appeared as guest conductor of the Santa Cruz County Symphony in annual collaborative concerts with the Youth Symphony.

A strong advocate for new music, Nathaniel is Co-Artistic Director of the San Francisco-based new music ensemble Ninth Planet (formerly Wild Rumpus), with whom he has led premieres of commissioned works by Ruben Naeff, Carolyn Chen, Dan Van Hassel, and many others. In 2014 he worked with members of Bang on a Can All-Stars and Alarm Will Sound on recording composer Jenny Olivia Johnson’s album Don’t Look Back. He conducted a program of premieres with Empyrean at UC Davis in June of 2019, as well as the world premiere of The Pressure, by Brian Baumbusch, at San Francisco’s Other Minds Festival at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts Theater.

Nathaniel has been a member of the professional new-music chorus Volti, where he also served as Assistant Conductor, and has sung with early music ensembles Pacific Collegium and Euouae. Originally a trumpet player, he now keeps up his brass chops playing euphonium in the Balkan brass band Inspector Gadje.

Nathaniel received his Master’s degree in conducting from UC Santa Cruz, where he studied with Nicole Paiement. He grew up playing duets with his dad, a jazz pianist and singer.

Gerry Mandel
Operations Manager

In the summer of 2017 Gerry Mandel left her longtime position as Editor and Co-Publisher of Stone Soup, the national magazine of writing and art by kids, and began working as Operations Manager for the Santa Cruz County Youth Symphony. She was part of the group of UC Santa Cruz students who founded and began publishing Stone Soup out of their dorm rooms in 1973. Originally from Los Angeles, Gerry came to Santa Cruz to attend UCSC, where she earned a BA in French Literature. Her interests outside of work revolve around music, art, and travel. She grew up studying piano and played modern flute in college. Now she studies recorder with Carol Panofsky. A highlight of her year is attending Pinewoods Early Music Week in Massachusetts. Gerry enjoys meeting our Youth Symphony families and making sure everyone has a fun and rewarding experience.

Ina Lee

Operations Assistant

Ina Lee is excited to join the Santa Cruz County Youth Symphony as Operations Assistant and blend her passions for music and helping students. She studied instruments from all four music families, with the piano, violin, flute, and French horn as her favorites. Ina has a BA in Biology from UCSC and had the fortune of working at a global pharmaceutical company, where she met and mentored many international students. In her spare time she likes learning new languages and going hiking. Ina is looking forward to helping this wonderful program that also nourished her children’s love for music.

Cynthia Baehr-Williams

Music Director, Chamber Strings

Co-Director, Chamber Music Academy

Cynthia has held the Concertmaster position with Opera San Jose since 2001, and she was Concertmaster with the San Jose Chamber Orchestra for 19 years. She has performed with many ensembles, including the New Century Chamber Orchestra, San Jose Symphony, Midsummer Mozart, New Music Works, and Monterey Symphony. She has appeared frequently as a soloist with the San Jose Chamber Orchestra and New Music Works of Santa Cruz. Cynthia is a passionate advocate of string education. In addition to directing our Chamber Strings program and co-directing our Chamber Music Academy, she has served on the faculty of Santa Clara University and the Silicon Valley Youth Conservatory at San Jose State University. She currently maintains a thriving studio of private students in Santa Cruz. Before moving to the Bay Area, Cynthia lived in Europe, where she performed as a member of the Lucerne Chamber Soloists in Switzerland and the Wurttembergisches Chamber Orchestra in Germany. She also adventured in Venezuela for several years, where she was a member of the Filarmonica de Caracas and the Filarmonica String Quartet. Cynthia holds a Bachelor of Music degree from the University of Florida and did post-graduate studies in Violin Performance at the Mannes Conservatory of Music in New York.

Kathleen Purcell

Co-Director, Chamber Music Academy

Kathleen Purcell played Principal Flute under the batons of Leopold Stokowski’s associate conductor Maurice Dubonnet, Robert Shaw, and Richard Woitach of the Metropolitan Opera. She toured Europe as Principal Flutist and soloist with the United States Honor Band, and toured the U.S. as Principal Flutist with the Idaho Bicentennial Orchestra as part of the United States Bicentennial Celebration. She holds degrees in Flute Performance from the Lionel Hampton School of Music and the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Her ongoing passion for chamber music led her to coach for Ivan Rosenblum’s legendary Celebrating Youth program, and currently for the Santa Cruz County Youth Symphony’s Chamber Music Academy. Today, she concertizes, plays frequently on Santa Cruz Chamber Players programs, and runs an active flute studio in Santa Cruz.

Board of Directors

Ruth Updegraff

Ruth Updegraff has served on the Santa Cruz County Youth Symphony board since 2008, and as President since 2013. Both of her sons were members of SCCYS and are now in college. Ruth works for SunOpta Inc. as Controller in their Scotts Valley office. She has worked in various financial and project management positions since arriving in Santa Cruz in 1982. She holds a BA in Economics & International Relations from Beloit College and an MBA from Santa Clara University. In her spare time, Ruth is interested in classical guitar, and she sings with both the Cabrillo Symphonic Chorus and the UCSC Concert Choir.

Helene Milner
Vice President

Helene Milner is a retired United Methodist pastor, the daughter of a choir director, and the mother of a former Santa Cruz County Youth Symphony cellist. She has sung all her life in various church, school, and community choirs and played French Horn through high school. She values the sense of cooperation and mastery that playing in a group can bring about. When not at choir rehearsal, she enjoys cooking and working out.

Carol Panofsky

Carol Panofsky is an active freelance musician who performs and teaches early music, modern oboe, and piano. She has performed with the Albany Consort, Santa Cruz Chamber Players, Santa Cruz Symphony, and Carmel Bach Festival. Carol received a Masters of Music in the Performance of Early Music from the New England Conservatory of Music. She is Music Director for Ragazzi Boys Chorus in Redwood City. Carol is a co-founder of the Santa Cruz Chamber Players, and she founded and runs Munching with Mozart, a series of free monthly concerts showcasing local musicians at the Santa Cruz Public Library.

Kenneth Lyons

A native Angeleno, Ken holds a baccalaureate degree in Radio, Television, & Film from Cal State Long Beach, and a master’s degree in Library & Information Science from San Jose State. Before his nearly 20-year, current tenure as a UCSC reference librarian, he was a postman in Santa Monica, transferring to Santa Cruz in 1981 where he’s lived ever since. A lifelong record collector—starting at nine years old—and devotee of the music of many genres, Ken also served a number of years as Secretary of the Santa Cruz Baroque Festival. In his too-spare leisure time, he can be found cooking; watching English Premier League football; exploring the highways, byways, and restaurants of the California Republic; and on a never-ending quest to perfect his audio system on which to enjoy that record collection.

Thien Ho

Born and raised in Vietnam, Thien Ho did his graduate studies in India and England, and obtained a DPhil in biochemistry from Oxford University. After several years in academia, he now lives in Watsonville and works for Driscoll’s as a scientist studying plant pathology and diagnostics to keep the berries clean, healthy and delightful. Besides science, he has been enjoying every moment of his daughter’s music journey for the last 10 years. Thien believes that every child has a talent for music, and parents’ great involvement is very important to their children’s music development. Thien hopes to bring further outreach to the youths and families from the southern part of Santa Cruz county. In his spare time, Thien learns Spanish and classical guitar, and listens to Mozart and Beethoven.

Laura McShane

Laura McShane

Laura McShane is a native of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, but has lived in Santa Cruz for longer than she cares to admit. She holds Master’s degrees in Marine Science and Percussion Performance from UC Santa Cruz, where she studied percussion with William Winant. Laura performs regularly with Ensemble Monterey Chamber Orchestra and Cabrillo Stage and has performed with the Peninsula Symphony, Monterey Bay Pops, New Music Works Santa Cruz, Cadenza Chamber Ensemble, All About Theater, and South Valley Symphony. Laura also studies and performs Middle Eastern music and dance. By day, she works as an academic adviser for the Literature Department at UC Santa Cruz. Laura served as operations manager of the Santa Cruz County Youth Symphony from 2010 to 2017.

Phill Williams

Phill Williams is the child of a barbershop director and arranger, and a lifelong percussionist. He spent seven summers in his youth touring the country with drum-and-bugle corps and more recently played vibraphone and percussion in Bay Area bands Nanos Operetta and Jump/Cut. These days he works as an Audio Algorithm Engineer at Netflix and raises his two young musicians, who inexplicably chose cello and violin instead of percussion. This is Phill’s first experience as a board member and he is excited to carry on SCCYS’s great tradition of excellence in musicianship. Phill is a member of the Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia professional men’s music fraternity and holds a Bachelor of Music from University of Miami School of Music.

Advisory Committee

Cynthia Baehr-Williams
Kathleen Purcell
Alice Talbot
Back To Top