Michael Smith, a trumpet player with the Charleston Symphony Orchestra, has been named the organization’s new executive director, according to Cindy Hartley, first vice president of the board.
Smith will give up his position as first trumpet to assume his new management responsibilities, Hartley said. He steps into the role seven months after the previous director, Danny Beckley, left the symphony, citing disagreements with the board over direction.
Soon after Beckley’s departure, the board established a search committee and hired a consultant to help identify candidates. Several applied, and one was in serious contention when Smith made it known in October that he was interested in the job, Hartley said.
Smith worked his way through the interview process and received a unanimous endorsement from the board, Hartley said.
“At the end of the day, we all felt extremely positive about Michael and what he would bring to the position,” Hartley said.
He was instrumental in getting all parties to the negotiating table in 2010, when a contract dispute threatened the organization, and recently he played a leading role as musicians voted to forego union representation in negotiations with the symphony.
From 2010 to 2012, Smith filled in as operations manager, Hartley said. And he has worked with Concertmaster and Acting Artistic Director Yuriy Bekker on programming and other musical matters, so he is well-suited for the task of leading the symphony into “a whole new era,” she said.
“He has some very grounded but creative ideas about ways to perform and generate new revenue,” Hartley said.
Smith said his experience on the business side exposed him to a different aspect of the symphony enterprise.
“When I took the operations job, I wanted to learn the business of it,” he said. “Now there are so many amazing opportunities ahead for this organization, I just want to see them through.”
Smith said he looks forward to working with dedicated board members.
“One of the reasons I threw my hat into the ring in the first place was because, (based on) the brief encounters I had, I believe this board of directors is truly committed to us,” he said. “The level of activism amongst board members is truly impressive.”
Bekker called Smith “a passionate entrepreneur.”
“Michael cares deeply about the orchestra, and he cares deeply about the musicians,” Bekker said. “Having him in this role will make him a very strong liaison to the musicians. He understands what musicians need.”
The symphony still is on a road to recovery after the collapse in 2010. It was forced to shut down operations mid-season due to financial and contractual problems. Today it is back in the black and attracting attention with creative programming, community outreach and a search, now underway, for a music director.
As executive director, Smith said can advance his career while remaining in Charleston, a city in which he and his family are thoroughly entrenched.
“My dream was to be a trumpet player in an orchestra,” he said. But much has changed in the music business, so putting his other talents to use makes sense. “I think where I need to be right now is serving the greater music community.”
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