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Mill Valley Philharmonic

Mission & History

Our Mission

The mission of Mill Valley Philharmonic is to enrich the cultural life of Marin County by providing access to quality orchestral programs to people of all ages and means in their own communities.


As an organization, we believe that music is a vital part of individual and community life. Whether participating as a player or a listener, music engages our imaginative powers, awakens our aesthetic sensibilities, and inspires our creative expression.

Community Accessibility & Visibility

Everyone is welcome to MVP concerts, regardless of an individual's ability to pay. 

Performance Venues

We provide audiences with an intimate concert experience, performing in high-quality, small venues that create a strong bond between players and listeners. 


MVP engages listeners through innovative thematic programming, featuring repertoire that ranges from recognized masterworks to world premieres. 

Education & Outreach

We are dedicated to building the next generation of classical music devotees through innovative educational experiences for youth in local schools.  MVP includes audience education in every performance to expand the audience's enjoyment and understanding of the music. 

Audience & Artist Experience

We introduce local soloists and composers to their home audience, strengthening the community bond between artist and listener. 


MVP collaborates with other non-profit cultural and community partners to achieve mutually beneficial goals. 

Orchestra Member Experience

We provide dedicated volunteer musicians the opportunity to rehearse and perform orchestral repertoire at the highest level.


Our History

Mill Valley Philharmonic was founded by Laurie Cohen in Fall 2000. Starting with 15 string players, the ensemble quickly grew to a full orchestra of 60 auditioned, volunteer musicians. Audiences started small, but today more than 3,500 people attend MVP concerts each season.


In its 19-year history, MVP has performed over 180 concerts, playing in every Marin County community, as well as in varied venues around the Bay Area (e.g. Treasure Island; Bay Model in Sausalito; Discovery Museum; and Angel Island). In addition to standard orchestral repertoire, MVP prides itself on having commissioned and presented 20 world premieres by emerging composers. Local professional soloists, including several from the San Francisco Symphony, perform regularly with MVP. And, numerous performing arts groups have collaborated with MVP, ranging from a Gamelan orchestra to flamenco dancers, a Miwok Indian leader, and several local choruses.


Education plays a prominent role in MVP’s concerts. Informative talks and orchestral demonstrations have been a part of each performance, helping the audience to better appreciate what they are about to hear. Creative, thematic programming has also been a highlight of MVP’s concert seasons, allowing the audience to make connections between the varied compositions. A sampling of MVP’s thematic programming during our 18 seasons includes: Music and Murals of the Works Progress Administration (performed in WPA architectural sites); Rain Dance (MVP’s offerings to End the Drought); Music from the 1915 Panama Pacific Exposition; East meets West at the 1889 Paris World’s Fair (Gamelan’s influence on Western composers); and a Local Parks Tour (outdoor performances of American composers in local state and national parks).

Artistic Director

Artistic Director & Conductor

Dana Sadava

Dana Sadava enjoys a varied career as a conductor of both opera and symphonic music. In addition to her work with Mill Valley Philharmonic, Ms. Sadava serves on the faculty of the San Francisco Conservatory of Music as a conductor and coach in the Opera Theatre department and is the Artistic Director of Pasadena Opera. Passionate about music education, she is the Director of Chamber Music at The Urban School and accompanies vocalists at the San Francisco Opera’s education events. Recently she made her debut with the San Diego Symphony and taught courses on Classical music through Santa Clara University’s Osher Lifelong Learning Institute. She has worked with Opera San Jose, University of California San Diego, Wexford Opera (Ireland), Banff Opera as Theatre, Indianapolis Opera, Pensacola Opera, Cinnabar Theater, and Festival Opera. She studied conducting with Kenneth Kiesler at the University of Michigan, where she earned a Masters degree on a merit scholarship. She studied piano with Dorothy Hwang at the Colburn School and Gabriel Chodos at the Aspen Music Festival. Before delving into musical life, Ms. Sadava earned an undergraduate degree in aeronautics and literature from Caltech. She lives in San Rafael with her husband, Jim Stopher, along with their cat, Darla, and dog, Summer. 

Founder & Conductor Emeritus


Laurie Cohen

Laurie Cohen began her conducting studies at San Francisco State University in 1999.  She studied with Maestri Urs Leonhardt Steiner, David Ramadanoff, Alan Hazeldine and Kenneth Keisler, and attended conducting workshops around the world. She was assistant conductor of the San Francisco Community Music Center Orchestra from 2000 to 2004.  Cohen started Mill Valley Philharmonic in the fall of 2000. She received a Creative Achievement Award, the Milley, from the Mill Valley Art Commission in 2006; also in 2006, the orchestra received a MetLife/American Symphony Orchestra League award for Community Engagement.  In 2009, Cohen received a Distinguished Alumna Award from Berklee College of Music in the area of service to the community.


Board of Directors & Staff

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Seth Jaffe

Seth Jaffe teaches at Berkeley Law and the University of San Francisco Law School, having recently retired as chief legal officer of Levi Strauss & Co. Seth also consults as a mentor and coach in the legal world and serves on multiple non-profit boards. Seth has played in bands and orchestras throughout his life and has been timpanist and principal percussionist since joining Mill Valley Philharmonic in 2001, its second year.

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Nance F. Becker

​Nance Becker is recently retired from her long-time career as a civil attorney. She has been MVP's principal flutist since 2002, and also performs with the Presidio Woodwind Quintet, local musical theatre groups, and other chamber ensembles. Nance joined the MVP Board in 2005. In addition to the role of Secretary, she works on communications and special events and advises the Board about legal issues.



Jennifer Feigal

Jennifer Feigal is a retired general internist who has lived in Mill Valley for 30 years. She completed her medical training at UC Davis and UCSF. She has attended MVP concerts since its earliest days. She is a rare non musician on the board, but grew up in a family obsessed with opera and all forms of live music performance.



Merrie Jaffe

Merrie Jaffe, cellist and psychotherapist, has played with Mill Valley Philharmonic since 2001, the second year of MVP’s existence. Merrie graduated from Oberlin College and has an MSW from Columbia University. She has worked as a psychotherapist first in multiple non-profit agencies, and then in private practice in San Francisco and Mill Valley. She started playing the cello at the age of 9 and plays the piano as well. Merrie lives in Mill Valley with her family and joined the MVP board in the fall of 2023.

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Jay Williams

Jay Williams graduated from the University of California, Berkeley, where he played flute and earned a degree in music. He taught at the East Bay Center for the Performing Arts, then earned an MBA and moved to the business world. In his 50’s he began to play French Horn. He found a home in the MVP horn section in 2008, for which he is eternally grateful. He served on MVP's Artistic Director search committee, and joined the Board soon after. When he’s not practicing the horn, Jay is enjoying Marin County’s twisty roads on his motorcycle.



Renee Baldwin

Renée is a Transformation Coach & Yoga and Meditation Teacher. She has practiced Healing Arts for over 25 years and holds a Master’s in Health Psychology Education from Stanford University. Renée worked as Director of Business Development with Dr. Dean Ornish and was a lead consultant on the documentary film, The Cure is U. Renée plays the piano and the flute, is passionate about the arts and music as a modality to heal and transform.

Honorary Board

Richard Aldag


​Stan Green


Kathryn Martin


Board & Staff
Orchestra Members
Become a member

Become a member of the Mill Valley Philharmonic family

Wedding Band

Our Mission

The mission of Mill Valley Philharmonic is to enrich the cultural life of Marin County by providing access to quality orchestral programs to people of all ages and means in their own communities.

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