Tri-Valley Hero: Arts connect people

William Doerlich presented with arts award for contribution to community

San Ramon's William Doerlich started piano lessons at age 4, next began to play the trumpet, and has been an arts enthusiast ever since.

"I've always been involved in the arts, both as a performer when younger, and just having a real appreciation of the arts and what they mean to the community," said Doerlich, 64, a full-time real estate broker, president of the San Ramon Arts Foundation and member of the city's Parks and Community Services Commission.

He played in high school bands, brass ensembles, jazz bands, rock bands and garage bands when younger, and became involved in the local arts community when he served on the board of Contra Costa Chamber Orchestra, from 1988-2001.

"The arts provide a balance for people," Doerlich said. "There's something about the arts that connects you to other people while still expressing your uniqueness. It takes you outside of yourself, gets you in touch with the divine within you, that higher essence."

Doerlich, who is a real estate broker at Realty ONE Group in San Ramon, a director for the California Association of Realtors and 2016 president-elect for the Bay East Association of Realtors, also brings a skill set to the arts community that gets results.

"He is the kind of arts leader who does not say 'no' when faced with a new idea or concept," said Kathi Heimann, program manager for the San Ramon Parks and Community Services Department. "Instead he dives in and figures out what can be done to make things happen."

"While he was on the Arts Advisory Committee, he was one of the champions for literary arts and helped develop the poet laureate program for San Ramon," she continued. "He provided input into the creation of San Ramon's first Cultural Plan. He assisted with the selection of gallery exhibits and public art projects for the city."

Doerlich grew up on Long Island in Huntington, N.Y., and attended Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. After graduation he worked for a while in construction in Kentucky and also had a job waiting for him in D.C.

"But I had a lot of friends who had moved out to California, so I packed up the van and headed out," he recalled. "When I got out here, it wasn't snowing, I had a place to stay, and it just kind of happened."

He lived in Berkeley and the Oakland Hills for about 10 years and moved to San Ramon in 1992. He soon began to help the city book bands for its events since he knew all the musicians in the area. In 2002 he joined the San Ramon Arts Advisory Committee.

"Then people with the city said, 'Why don't you get on the Arts Foundation?'" he said.

He fondly remembers the installation of a piece of public art, a frolicking family titled "4 People" by Dale Rogers at Central Park.

"He (Rogers) brought his whole family across the country from Massachusetts. They rented a flatbed truck and made an adventure out of it," Doerlich said.

For the past two years Doerlich has been president of the San Ramon Arts Foundation, where he has helped secure funding to support the Youth Symphony, community bands and the Foreign Films Series.

"One of the things I've always wanted to do was get more art organizations, performing organizations, under the foundation because one of the benefits is the relationship with the city, access to the facilities, etc.," Doerlich said. "Also we are a 501(c)(3) nonprofit and a lot of groups don't have the wherewithal to do that."

He's proud of helping start San Ramon's professional dance company, Jumpin' at the Sun, which is directed by Debbie Saravia and her daughter, Lindsey Saravia Neville.

"Someone introduced me to Debbie because she wanted to start up an adult contemporary dance company," Doerlich said. "We could bring them under the foundation, get them grants and take care of everything, like insurance."

The troupe performs in San Francisco and Berkeley, as well as San Ramon, to great reviews.

"We are fortunate in our position to help groups like this," Doerlich said.

Saravia, in turn, is one of Doerlich's biggest supporters and remembers him being "warm and receptive" when they met.

"Without him, we would not be here," she said. "He's just so wonderful. And he is at every arts event -- he is just super supportive of the local arts scene."

Doerlich worked on Mayor Bill Clarkson's campaign and said he enjoys politics.

"It's not about political parties, it's more about serving the residents and the community," Doerlich said. "It's about how can we create a great city."

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