Baltimore Symphony names rising young conductor as next music director

Fri Jul 22, 2022 at 3:11 pm

Jonathon Heyward will take the reins of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra in the fall of 2023.

The Baltimore Symphony Orchestra appointed Jonathon Heyward as its next music director, in a surprise move announced Thursday.

The 29-year-old conductor, who hails from South Carolina, agreed to a five-year contract beginning in the 2023-2024 season. Heyward will be the first African-American music director in the BSO’s 106-year history, succeeding Marin Alsop, who held the post from 2007 to 2021. The orchestra’s new conductor will reflect the current city demographic, where almost two-thirds of Baltimore’s residents are black.

Heyward’s appointment comes early in the search process, begun when James Conlon took over as BSO artistic adviser last September. What was described as a “multi-year international search” in the end took only 11 months. Heyward’s selection was unanimous from the Baltimore Symphony music director search committee, comprised of BSO musicians, staff, and community members, following the conductor’s two successful programs this spring.

“Jonathon is a visionary leader with the potential to connect to our communities,” said search committee chair and Johns Hopkins University provost Sunil Kumar. “As a former student of the public school system in Charleston, South Carolina, Jonathon’s passion for nurturing inclusive educational experiences, such as the BSO OrchKids program, will help define not only the future of the BSO’s community impact, but also Maryland’s cultural footprint.”

The BSO has recently cut ten performances from its 2022-2023 season in response to low audience attendance numbers last season.

Heyward has served as assistant conductor of the Hallé Orchestra, where he was mentored by Mark Elder, and is currently the chief conductor of the Nordwestdeutsche Philharmonie. As music director designate, Heyward will conduct two concert programs next spring (May 4-7 and May 19-21, 2023), before taking the reins officially in September 2023.

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