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by Bill Koelzer
Berenika Schmitz, 30, new Executive Director of the Casa Romantica, San Clemente’s Cultural Center and former (1927) mansion of our City’s founder, Ole Hanson, is used to receiving standing ovations from adoring crowds.
That’s because she’s also a world-renowned American concert pianist, about whom Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia, says, “She attended Professional Children’s School in New York as well as the Julliard School of Music. After high school, she went to Harvard University, where she was the recipient of the Leonard Bernstein Scholarship. She graduated magna com laude in both Music and Government. She then pursued her Master’s degree at Christ Church, Oxford University and then her post-graduate diploma at the Royal Academy of Music, London.
“She has performed with the most renowned orchestras and orchestra leaders in the world, including performing at halls in Japan, India, Indonesia, China, Brazil, Panama, Peru, Uruguay, Costa Rica, Argentina and Buenos Aires. She has performed, too, at the Lincoln Center, New York City, and the Wigmore Hall, London.”
Berenika has even been presented to HM Queen Elizabeth II, of England. A child prodigy, she performed as soloist with the Sault Symphony Orchestra, Ontario, Canada, at age 9.
Top Casa officials are impressed with what a quick study Berenika is, and the great start she’s off too.
Guy Varriano, Casa Founding President, says, “In our selection process for an executive director we had many qualified applicants. However, due to Berenika's outstanding formal educational background, her involvement in musical and arts programs, and her recent completion of the DeVos Institute of arts management program at Kennedy Center, we felt she was well qualified for executive management.
“Her background parallels our mission statement that states, ‘Casa Romantica provides programs for all ages in arts, music, dance, history, horticulture and literature.’
“Berenika recently designed and implemented the ‘Casa Captivating Programs’ that covers education, classical and jazz music, dance performance, history, culture, coastal, visual arts, and wellness programs. She also was active in our most recent Toast to the Casa annual fund raiser. The Casa Board of Trustees is pleased to have Berenika as our Executive Director.”
Michele Parrish, also a Board of Trustees member, says, “Berenika hit the ground running from day one as the Executive Director of the Casa. Within a few weeks she’d envisioned an entire year of exciting new programs and initiatives.
“Her first week on the job she actually hosted her first event, our fabulous Fourth of July members evening! The next big occasion, the October 2013 Toast to the Casa, also occurred within her first 90 days. This hallmark event was remarkably successful, with Berenika seemingly right at home, as though she's always been a part of the Casa family.
“Berenika is a consummate professional and a delight to work with. I hope others make the time to get to know her on a personal level. She brings a wealth of topnotch talent and tenacity to our growing community."
“We now have programs that will ideally speak to every type of person and their interests” says Berenika. We purposely started with an extended Casa Kids program at about 100 kids and growing.” She reflected, “I do so love to hear children’s voices throughout the Casa all day.”
(See page 24 for a schedule of new programs for Casa Romantica)