Napa Valley Performing Arts Foundation supports Lucky Penny's current production of 'Chicago'. 

Kurt Gonsalves/KMG Design

The Napa Valley Performing Arts Foundation has been been making grants supporting music-related local performances for less than two years. Its complicated history, though, began well before that. “It’s a young thing,” board member Howard Walker said, “but with old roots.” Walker and board president Susan Hafleigh spoke last week about the nonprofit foundation’s history, mission and accomplishments to date.

“We have risen from the ashes of the Napa Valley Symphony Endowment Fund,” Hafleigh said. The fund, which consisted largely of a bequest from prominent Napa Valley wine pioneers Belle and Barney Rhodes, became the asset of the new Foundation after the Symphony’s bankruptcy claims were settled in 2012.

“We converted to a private nonprofit foundation toward the end of 2014,” she said, “and in 2015 we established our grant procedures and started distributing money. We are required to distribute at least five percent of our assets each year as grants.”

The Foundation’s first grant, $10,000 to the Napa Valley Youth Symphony, was made in May of 2015.

Walker, who chairs the Foundation board’s grant committee, explained the process of grant making. “We are three people,” he said. “We get together, meet with the applicants and discuss what they want to do with the money. We get to know them face to face; it’s not just done by mail. If the grant committee approves it, we pass it to the board. Every board member votes on it.”

He emphasized that the money is for the support of performances, not for administrative or operating expenses. Since their first grant to the Youth Symphony, the Foundation has funded performances by the Napa Regional Dance Foundation, Symphony Napa Valley, Lucky Penny Productions, the Napa Valley Jazz Society, the St. Helena Chorale Society, The White Barn and Music in the Vineyards.

One of the foundation’s priorities is the support of music-related local events for children. “We’re trying to get to kids,” Walker said. “’The Nutcracker’ is a performance by the Napa Regional Dance Foundation. They have kids perform in it and it’s a show for the kids. We’re doing two shows with Lucky Penny, one is ‘Chicago,’ (running currently and definitely not for young children), and the other is “Annie,” which will be done at Christmas time and is a program for kids.”

“We do scholarships for kids as well,” he added. The Foundation gave the St. Helena Chorale Society $10,000 in 2016 to support the Chorale’s tuition scholarship fund for needy high schoolers in the program. In addition, the Foundation has sponsored a scholarship to the Bolshoi Ballet for a St. Helena high school student.

While similarly named, the Foundation is not affiliated with the Napa Valley Performing Arts Center at Lincoln Theater, though it does underwrite some of the organizations performing there. For more information and donations, contact Hafleigh at For grant application materials, contact Howard Walker at

Heads Up

EarleFest is Sept. 23 in Rohnert Park

This year’s EarleFest features Los Lobos, The California Honeydrops, Tift Merritt, The songs of Audrey Auld performed by Nina Gerber, Pam Delgado and Jeri Jones, the Timothy O’Neil Band, Dirty Cello, Charley Peach and Emily Lois. Saturday, September 23, 3:30 p.m. (doors open 3 p.m.) and tickets are $55, children younger than 5 are admitted free. Somo Village Event Center. 1100 Valley House Dr., Rohnert Park.

David Kerns is a Napa-based freelance journalist. You can view more of his work at