Chicago puts a face on its new chief

Chicago puts a face on its new chief


norman lebrecht

September 04, 2014

Jeff Alexander, confirmed yesterday as president of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra from next January, has kept so low a profile until now that no picture of him showed up on social media, Google or any of his previous jobs.

Andrew Patner fills in the dots on his past career here and provides a face.

Full press release follows. We wish Jeff every success.

jeff alexander
CHICAGO—Jay Henderson, Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra Association (CSOA), announced today the appointment of Jeff Alexander to the position of President of the CSOA, effectiveJanuary 12, 2015.Jeff Alexander currently serves as President and CEO of the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra (VSO), a post he has held for 14 years, since September 2000. In this role, Alexander has been responsible for the leadership of Western Canada’s largest performing arts organization and Canada’s third largest symphony orchestra.

During his tenure with the VSO, Alexander has worked with Music Director Bramwell Tovey, members of the orchestra, the Board of Directors, the administration and volunteers to strengthen all aspects of the organization’s artistic, fiscal, governance, community engagement and educational activities. Through the implementation of a series of strategic plans, he instituted a wide variety of new programs and activities, including the VSO School of Music, a state-of-the-art, $25 million, 25,000-square-foot community music school.

Alexander is credited with re-establishing the VSO’s domestic and international touring programs, growing and diversifying its revenue streams, launching and sustaining a campaign that has substantially increased the value of its endowment fund, bringing significant growth to ticket sales and increasing individual, corporate and government support, resulting in a surplus on annual operations for 10 of the past 11 years.

Said Henderson, “Jeff Alexander brings a unique leadership combination to the CSOA: passion for and knowledge of symphonic music, a strong track record of leading orchestral organizations, a proven commitment to community engagement and the ability to develop effective long-term relationships with the key stakeholders of orchestras. The Board of Trustees is delighted and confident that we have identified the best person for the job—one who will continue to enhance the CSOA’s distinguished legacy and its worldwide reputation.”

Said Riccardo Muti, the CSO’s Music Director, “I am happy that Jeff Alexander has accepted the position of President of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra Association. He is a person with many fine qualities, and his sincerity and genuine enthusiasm for the music and for the Orchestra are evident. He brings a new perspective that in working with the musicians and the Music Director will allow the Chicago Symphony Orchestra to reach even greater levels of achievement.”

“I am extremely honored to have been selected to serve as the Chicago Symphony Orchestra Association’s next President,” said Jeff Alexander. “As has the rest of the world, I have for many decades greatly admired and been inspired by Maestro Muti and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. I look forward to working with them, the Association’s Board of Trustees, the administration and volunteers on achieving the long-term aspirations of the organization.”

Said Stephen Lester, Chairman, Members Committee, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, “The Musicians of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra are pleased to welcome Jeff Alexander as President of the CSOA. In Mr. Alexander, the CSO has a proven, effective President who is keenly committed to high artistic standards and who will support the vision of our Music Director, Riccardo Muti. He has shown a lifelong commitment to managing orchestras and brings a wealth of experience to Chicago. We look forward to his arrival.”

As CSOA President, Alexander will lead the CSOA in close collaboration with the Board of Trustees and the preeminent conductor Riccardo Muti, the Music Director of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. The CSOA is the parent organization of the 106-member Chicago Symphony Orchestra, widely considered one of the finest orchestras in the world. With an endowment valued at $257 million, and an annual operating budget of approximately $74 million, the CSOA also includes a presenting division called Symphony Center Presents, which brings guest artists of all musical genres to Chicago; the Civic Orchestra of Chicago, a preprofessional training orchestra; the Chicago Symphony Chorus; and the Negaunee Music Institute at the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, which offers a variety of youth, community and education programs for more than 200,000 people of diverse incomes, ages and backgrounds.

Prior to his time in Vancouver, Alexander spent 16 years at the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra in education, regional touring and artistic administration, with the final 12 of those years as its General Manager. From 1982 to 1984, he served as General Manager of the Laredo Philharmonic Orchestra in Texas, and from 1980 to 1982 he served as General Manager of Grapa Concerts in New York City, an artist management firm that organized Latin American tours for North American and European soloists and ensembles.

Alexander is a graduate of the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston, where he majored in French Horn Performance. He has been a member of the League of American Orchestras since 1982 and Orchestras Canada since 2000. He was elected to the Board of Directors of Orchestras Canada in 2001 and during the subsequent 10 years served in a number of leadership roles for the group, including Chair. He has also served in volunteer roles for the Canada Council for the Arts, British Columbia Arts Council and the Vancouver Foundation’s Arts & Culture Advisory Committee. Alexander is married to pianist Keiko Alexander, a graduate of The Juilliard School in New York City and an active performer, teacher and competition adjudicator.

The selection of Alexander to this post was made by a Search Committee led by CSOA Board Chair Jay Henderson. Members included CSOA Trustees, CSO musicians and senior staff members. Spencer Stuart was the executive search firm serving the Search Committee on this appointment.

Alexander’s predecessor, Deborah F. Rutter, stepped down in June 2014 after 11 years as President of the CSOA to assume the leadership of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, DC.

A nonprofit charitable organization, the CSOA is governed by a voluntary board of trustees made up of leaders from the private, public and nonprofit sectors and the community at large. The CSOA is supported by tens of thousands of other volunteers, patrons and corporate, foundation, government and individual donors. The CSO’s music director position is endowed in perpetuity by a generous gift from the Zell Family Foundation. The Negaunee Foundation provides generous support in perpetuity for the work of the Negaunee Music Institute at the CSO. Bank of America is the Global Sponsor of the CSO.


President & CEO, Vancouver Symphony Orchestra (VSO) 2000-2014

– Successful in partnering with and supporting the music director in developing and executing the artistic vision for the organization as well as in creating an atmosphere of mutual respect and admiration among the board of directors, musicians, staff and volunteers.
– Led the development of strategic plans for the organization that clearly outlined an achievable path for growth and success. 
– Education and community programs have grown significantly over the past 14 years, from reaching 30,000 children annually to now over 50,000. 
– Co-founded the VSO School of Music, a state-of-the-art, $25 million, 25,000-square-foot community music school next door to the concert hall in downtown Vancouver, now in its third year of operation with over 1,300 students and 90 faculty members.
– Served as lead negotiator in five master contracts with the musicians and with the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees.<
– Launched the VSO’s first endowment campaign, during which more than 50 gifts were procured at a value of over $10 million, including the organization’s first $1 million gift. Endowment has grown during tenure from $4 million to over $20 million.
– Launched a VSO “All-Access Pass” program for those under 30 years old, enrolling over 4,000 young people annually.
– Established a summer residency in the Resort Municipality of Whistler in 2012, now entering its fourth year and to include the creation of the Vancouver Symphony Orchestral Institute at Whistler.

– Served for 10 years on the Board of Directors of Canada’s orchestral national service organization, Orchestras Canada, including two-year terms as Vice-Chair, Chair and Past-Chair.

Cincinnati Symphony, 1984-2000

  • General Manager from 1988-2000, serving concurrently as Artistic Administrator for nine years.
  • Handled all touring, radio, recording and television projects.
  • COO of Cincinnati May Festival from 1986-2000.
  • Director of Regional and Educational Programs from 1984-1988.



  • Andrew Patner says:

    Not every arts organization president/chief has no photos of himself on his group’s website or on the web at all and does not give his age either! 😉 An unusual humility, it seems.

  • Andrew Patner says:

    I like that, Rob. 😉 He seems to have been highly regarded in your town, no?

    • Rob Gloor says:

      That would be an understatement. In spite of his low public profile, Jeff is universally admired by his peers, and not just in Vancouver. A local colleague, Charles Barber, called him “one of the most gifted arts leaders and managers in our nation,” and all those across Canada who know Jeff and his work would agree.

  • Andrew Patner says:

    This is what I hear, too, Rob. And not only from those in Canada. Chicago is looking forward to his work here!