Tara Aesquivel, Executive Director

Through her work, Tara Aesquivel strives to share the power of the arts with others. Tara’s professional experience includes strategic planning, fundraising, production, and community engagement for LA Opera, Pittsburgh Opera, A Noise Within, Antioch University Los Angeles, The Lukens Company, and Invertigo Dance Theatre. Tara has a B.A. in Music from the University of Missouri–Kansas City, a Master of Arts Management from Carnegie Mellon University, and studied Cultural Economics at the University of Bologna. Tara continues learning through professional development programs, including Annenberg Alchemy, the Executive Directors’ Leadership Institute, Dance/USA’s Institute for Leadership Training, and the Arts Innovation and Management program with Michael Kaiser. Committed to equity, Tara participates in learning about diversity, equity, and inclusion, by participating in courses such as Undoing Racism and a DEI masterclass with Vu Le. Tara has served on Advisory Boards for Inner-City Arts and Emerging Arts Leaders/Los Angeles. She has also served as a guest speaker, panelist, writer, and adjunct faculty member covering topics in fundraising and nonprofit leadership. She also very much enjoys traveling, photography, and being a mom.

Tara Aesquivel, executive director, tara.aesquivel@aysymphony.org

Isabel Thiroux, Director of Orchestra Operations

Isabel Thiroux has been with the American Youth Symphony since she first joined the viola section in 2001. After seven years in the orchestra, she “graduated” to working in the office, becoming Orchestra Manager in 2010 and Director of Orchestra Operations in 2015.

Ms. Thiroux studied viola at CSU, Long Beach with LA Philharmonic violist John Hayhurst and maintains an active career as a freelance violist performing regularly around the Los Angeles area.

Isabel Thiroux, director of orchestra operations, isabel.thiroux@aysymphony.org

Mandy Matthews, Manager of Community Engagement

Mandy Matthews is an arts educator, advocate, and leader grounded in making connections and building community. She has worked for Los Angeles based arts organizations including the Arts Council for Long Beach, The Broad Stage, and currently American Youth Symphony as the Manager of Community Engagement. In 2017 she completed Arts for LA’s arts advocacy program, ACTIVATE and founded an arts network and organization called EN-ACT, Educator’s Network: Art Creates Transformation. Mandy is also passionate about supporting college students and has facilitated professional development workshops and coached interns at CSULB and for the Los Angeles County Arts Internship Program. She is a graduate from Loyola Marymount University and holds two Bachelor Degrees in Dance and History, and recently received her Social Emotional Learning Facilitator certificate at UCLA. You can also find Mandy in the yoga studio teaching at CorePower Yoga!

Mandy Matthews, manager of community engagement, mandy.matthews@aysymphony.org

Mia McNeil, Development Manager

Mia McNeil joined the staff of the American Youth Symphony in the summer of 2018 as development associate. Mia’s goal for her work at AYS is to cultivate an audience of classical music enthusiasts that is inclusive of the beautifully diverse communities of Los Angeles. Towards this end, she has developed projects that have reflected AYS’ commitment to nurturing access, equity, and inclusion throughout programming and leadership. Mia is dedicated to fostering a new and growing community of listeners, by developing a sense of community that is inviting to a wider range of audiences of various demographics.

Mia McNeil graduated from Loyola Marymount University with a Bachelor’s Degree in English and Journalism. She grew up in Chicago, Illinois and quickly fell in love with writing and musical composition. Mia played violin throughout her childhood, studying at the Chicago High School for the Arts and Roosevelt High School in Seattle, Washington.

Mia McNeil,  development manager, mia.mcneil@aysymphony.org

Rich Johnson, Operations Specialist

Rich Johnson is a musician, sound designer, arts producer & teaching artist with a passion for bringing the arts to all. After studying music education & clarinet at The Hartt School & music technology at NYU, Rich worked in NYC for 7 years both on and off stage at venues including Radio City Music Hall, Abrons Arts Center, BEAT Festival and the NY Fringe Festival among numerous other productions.

Rich is excited to be a part of the AYS team as they provide accessible, high quality orchestral music to audiences all over Los Angeles and beyond.  

Rich Johnson, operations specialistrich.johnson@aysymphony.org

Mark Gutierrez, Lead Instructor, Share-A-Stand Program

Mark Gutierrez is a Los Angeles born upright/electric bassist, vocalist, composer, lyricist, and producer. He has been performing and creating music in the greater Los Angeles area for over ten years with a variety of ensembles, ranging in genre from Latin music, to Jazz, to Classical/Orchestral, to Hip Hop and more. An alumni of the American Youth Symphony, Mark now works with AYS’ Share-a-Stand program to bring advanced music training to students in LAUSD.

Mark Gutierrez, share-a-stand lead instructor, mark.gutierrez@aysymphonyorg