Tim Stepien/The Coastal Star
By Marie Puleo
Marti Kaplan has found the perfect way to combine her talent for crunching data with her love for classical music.
As a volunteer at the Symphonia chamber orchestra in Boca Raton, she helps internal operations run smoothly by using the skills she garnered during her nearly two-decade advertising career in New York.
“I learned along the way that my talents are in the back room and organization, and dealing with databases and spreadsheets, which is the kind of thing the Symphonia needed when I started with them in 2009,” Kaplan said.
After working in market and media research for major ad agencies such as J. Walter Thompson and McCann Erickson and as director of sales research for ABC television, Kaplan retired in 1988 to Boca Raton with her husband, who also worked in advertising. They were both in their 40s.
Kaplan filled her time doing volunteer work for the Florence Fuller Child Development Centers and serving as treasurer of her condo board, which proved to be labor-intensive.
“Eventually my husband said, ‘If you’re going to work that hard, you might as well go out and get paid for it.’ So I did,” Kaplan said.
She worked for a Realtor for 10 years, handling contracts, multiple-listing databases and bookkeeping. When she finally retired in 2008, this time officially, she needed something to do.
A former member of the Symphonia board who lived in Kaplan’s condo building knew that the Symphonia’s executive director, Annabel Russell, needed help, so she put Kaplan and Russell together.
“It just happened to be a very good match. We were very compatible,” Kaplan said.
“When I was growing up in Wisconsin, my mother worked almost full time as a volunteer for the Milwaukee Arts Center, so I spent a lot of time in grade school and high school stuffing envelopes or doing whatever was needed. Volunteering at the Symphonia was sort of automatic.”
The Symphonia, in its 10th season, aims to keep classical music flourishing in South Florida and features world-renowned guest artists, such as pianist Misha Dichter, who will be performing next month.
Kaplan, 68, is particularly enthusiastic about the Symphonia’s “Meet the Orchestra” program, which allows children to interact with musicians at dress rehearsals and learn about different instruments. “It’s important that they know there’s something out there besides rap and hip-hop,” she said.
Volunteering at the Symphonia three or four days a week, Kaplan has been spending most of her time lately working with a new database that will store information about donors, subscribers, single-ticket purchases and seat assignments in one consolidated place, consistently keeping things up-to-date.
“It’s the kind of database management that I’ve done most of my career in one form or another, and that isn’t necessarily the expertise of other volunteers,” Kaplan said. “It’s not glamorous, but it’s very satisfying when it works.”
And it worked last fall when Kaplan succeeded in putting together a donor list that was included in the programs for the first concert of the season.
“I was practically doing handsprings down the hallway, I was so happy that I got it to Annabel in the form she needed,” Kaplan said.
Making life easier for Russell is what it’s all about, “so she can do the business end of it that only she can do, so the musicians can come and play their music, and everybody’s happy.”
“Marti is amazing,” said Russell. “She has integrity, is reliable and does her work really, really well. She saves me a lot of time, and I’m very grateful to have her.”
Part of why Kaplan volunteers is that she hopes the Symphonia (www.thesymphonia.org) will stay in Boca Raton, so that people don’t have to go to Palm Beach or Miami to hear classical music.
“It makes me feel good that I’m doing something for an organization that brings pleasure to people and at the same time keeps my mind going. It gives me a reason to get out of bed in the morning,” Kaplan said.