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Six contestants have stepped forward in the annual La Crosse Symphony Orchestra Conductor Wannabe contest, an annual fundraiser that benefits community nonprofit organizations as well as the orchestra.

Each of the six candidates chooses a nonprofit organization that will receive half of the money they raise during the campaign, and people who want to support a candidate vote with their wallets. Each “vote” is $2 — one dollar going to the LSO and the other dollar going to the candidate’s chosen charity.

The winner and runner-up with the most votes received by June 5, will make their conducting debuts with the LSO on June 9. The LSO’s conductor and artistic director, Alexander Platt, will do the necessary coaching to ensure the winners feel “comfortable” during their guest appearance.

“The Conductor Wannabe competition is one of the symphony’s most anticipated annual fundraisers,” said Tracy Gaskin, LSO executive director. “The candidates spend a generous amount of time and effort into garnering public support and raising awareness of the great things we are doing in the community.”

This year’s contestants include the following:

Chuck Berendes is the general manager at Gerrard Hoeschler and attorney, and his chosen charity is Shelter Development, an organization for which he serves as vice president. Berendes also is a board member of La Crosse SOUP, committee chair of FSPA Homelessness Initiative Expanding services, Finance and Pastoral Council for Mary Mother of the Church, Mid West Music Fest board member and Cub Scout Pack 28 activities chair and assistant den leader.

Scott Mihalovic retired from the La Crosse School District of La Crosse in 2014 after 32 years in public education, 28 as a high school administrator. Currently an assistant professor at Viterbo University working as an educational leadership specialist, his chosen charity is the La Crosse Public Education Foundation, for whom he serves as a board member. His other volunteer activities include the the La Crosse Boys & Girls Clubs board, Public Health Community Advisory Committee for UW-La Crosse, the Heroin and Other Illicit Drugs Task Force and the Lighthouse Committee for development of La Crosse Peer Respite Center.

Nick Ragner is the director of development and public relations at The Salvation Army and is raising money for his organization. Ragner also is a Rotarian and helps with the Salvation Army Emergency Disaster Services.

Roz Schnick is retired from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and now dedicates her life to volunteering. Schnick’s chosen charity is the Gundersen Medical Foundation, Hospice Program. Schnick is a Rotarian, an Early Childhood Collaborative committee member, Sustainability Institute board member, aquaponics projects advocate, member of the River Advisory Board for U.S. Rep. Ron Kind, and a fundraiser for Aptiv, YWCA and the Women’s Fund.

Amy Stodola is a financial advisor for Edward Jones and her chosen charity is HorseSense for Special Riders. Stodola serves on the board of directors for HorseSense for Special Riders and the YWCA. She is a strong supporter of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Fund and is very involved in her Edward Jones volunteering.

Adam Weissenberger is a real estate agent for Coldwell Banker River Valley Realtors and will split his donations between the Trane Park Project and the Freedom Honor Flight La Crosse. He is a board member and part of the flight crew for Freedom Honor Flight La Crosse and a board member of the Trane Park Project, YWCA Taste of the Coulee Region and the Firecracker 4 mile as well as serving as a board member/founder/past-president of the La Crosse Area Autism Foundation.

Voting for contestants can be done online at


Entertainment and county government reporter

Randy Erickson covers arts and entertainment and county government for the La Crosse Tribune. Contact him at 608-791-8219 or

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