Fort Worth — In what has to be the most unexpected arts news of the year, the Fort Worth Symphony has just announced Keith Cerny as its new President and CEO.
Cerny was, for seven years, the General Director and CEO of the Dallas Opera. His sudden resignation from there was announced in December 2017. Cerny took charge of the Calary Opera in January 2018.
He begins his Fort Worth post in January 2019. In the news release, he cites the travel constraints as a big reason for moving back to Texas:
“While it is has been an honor to serve as General Director & CEO of Calgary Opera, the travel demands of this leadership position have put a greater than anticipated strain on me and my family back in Texas," he said in the release. "As a result, I have made the difficult decision to step down next year. I will continue to work with the Board of the Calgary Opera to implement the company’s new strategy until I depart for my new position in Fort Worth.”
Cerny comes into a job that has been vacant for more than a year, as former FWSO President and CEO Amy Atkins resigned in 2017, following a trying year in which there was a musician's strike. David Hyslop was interim director after her. Cerny will lead the symphony into a new era as its Music Director, Miguel Harth-Bedoya, prepares to leave Fort Worth at the end of the 2019-2020 season. A search for a successor will begin under Cerny's watch.
Look for an interview with Cerny coming soon on TheaterJones.
For now, the FWSO news release is below:
Following an intensive, international search, the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra (FWSO) today announced the appointment of Dr. Keith Cerny as President & CEO, effective January 11, 2019. Board Chair Mercedes Bass stated that “Patience and perseverance proved us right in finding the perfect candidate to lead the FWSO into the next chapter. Keith’s varied experiences with different organizations in multiple capacities prove that he is indeed highly qualified to be leading the FWSO. We are confident that the Board, Music Director, staff, and musicians will enjoy working with Keith when he joins us in January, and it is indeed a great pleasure to welcome Keith and his wife Jennifer to the FWSO family.”
Keith joins the FWSO from Calgary Opera, one of Canada’s most prominent opera companies, where he has served as General Director & CEO. Prior to joining Calgary Opera, he led The Dallas Opera as General Director & CEO between 2010 and early 2018. In making this announcement, Keith commented that “I am delighted to assume the role of President & CEO of the FWSO, and to partner with the Board, Music Director, and senior staff to lead this outstanding orchestra to new artistic heights. I have been impressed with the Board’s commitment to artistic excellence and community engagement, both of which are compelling to me.”
Keith noted further, “While it is has been an honor to serve as General Director & CEO of Calgary Opera, the travel demands of this leadership position have put a greater than anticipated strain on me and my family back in Texas. As a result, I have made the difficult decision to step down next year. I will continue to work with the Board of the Calgary Opera to implement the company’s new strategy until I depart for my new position in Fort Worth.”
Music Director Miguel Harth-Bedoya commented that “While Keith and I have known one another for several years in the Metroplex, we have not yet had the opportunity to partner on a musical project. I know that he and I share a common love of the orchestral and operatic repertoire and championing exciting new works, and I look forward to working with him closely in his new role.”
About Keith Cerny
Known for "his storied history of innovation" (Toronto Globe and Mail), Dr. Keith Cerny’s career spans classical music, technology, and business. He began his musical studies singing with the San Francisco Boys Chorus, where he performed with the San Francisco Opera and the San Francisco Symphony. He also began playing piano at age 10 and performed extensively in his teens as a pianist and conductor with a number of organizations, including the Berkeley Contemporary Chamber Players. He studied music and physics at the University of California at Berkeley, graduating with highest honors in both disciplines.
Following graduation from Berkeley, Keith was awarded a Fulbright fellowship to London. There, he studied and freelanced for four years as a pianist, vocal coach, and conductor. He studied conducting at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama and attended the repetiteur’s training course at the English National Opera. He subsequently received an MBA with distinction from the Harvard Business School, and a Ph.D. in econometrics and development policy from the Open University in the U.K.
After business school, Keith worked for the management consulting firms McKinsey & Co. and Accenture, rising to the level of Partner in Communications and High Technology at Accenture. He is currently the General Director & CEO of Calgary Opera, one of Canada’s largest opera companies, where he has focused on innovative programming and artistic collaboration. He served as Executive Director (COO) and CFO of the San Francisco Opera between 2004 and 2007, and subsequently as CEO of SheetMusicPlus.com. Between 2010 and early 2018, he was General Director & CEO of The Dallas Opera, where his tenure was “notable for both its artistic innovation and its fiscal stability (Opera News).” During this time, Keith commissioned three world premieres, hired an internationally acclaimed music director, Emmanuel Villaume, and principal guest conductor, Nicole Paiement, and launched a series of 16 free public simulcasts that reached nearly 75,000 patrons in the U.S. and abroad. He produced two DVDs and two CDs and founded the Hart Institute for Women Conductors - a unique international program for women on the cusp of major conducting careers. In 2017, The Dallas Opera was awarded the honor of hosting the annual OPERA America conference, for the first time in 30 years. Keith is a former Board member of OPERA America and served as Chair of the Strategy Committee.
In 2017, Keith was awarded the Visionary Arts Leader Award from the Business Council of the Arts in Dallas. He and his wife Jennifer have four sons, and a rescue Schnoodle named Libby.
About Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra
The Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra is deeply committed to uniting its community through performance, education, and outreach, reaching an audience of more than 200,000 annually. Since its beginnings in 1912, the FWSO has been an essential thread in the city’s cultural fabric and the very foundation of Fort Worth’s performing arts. Music Director Miguel Harth-Bedoya, now in his 19th season at the artistic helm of the FWSO, has led the orchestra into the 21st century to new levels of excellence. Under his leadership, the FWSO has performed at Carnegie Hall and the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts as part of SHIFT: A Festival of American Orchestras. Throughout his tenure, the FWSO has released 13 recordings – with several being world premiere releases – garnering international acclaim. Miguel Harth-Bedoya and the FWSO have embraced creative collaborations through residencies, partnerships, and commissions. As the principal resident company of the acoustically superb Nancy Lee and Perry R. Bass Performance Hall, the Orchestra performs a full season of concerts featuring internationally-acclaimed guest artists and works by living composers. The Orchestra performs and partners with the Texas Ballet Theater, Fort Worth Opera, The Cliburn, and Performing Arts Fort Worth. Each summer at the Fort Worth Botanic Garden, the FWSO presents Concerts In The Garden – a series of family-friendly concerts that has become a city-wide tradition. Additionally, the orchestra hosts an annual Festival of Orchestras, providing an opportunity for non-professional orchestras across the state of Texas to perform in Bass Performance Hall. The FWSO keeps exceptional musical experiences at the heart of its community. After all—life is better with music!