DFW Music News

Change Ahead for the Dallas Symphony Orchestra as It Appoints Its First Female CEO

Kim Noltemy
Kim Noltemy courtesy DSO

When Kim Noltemy becomes the Dallas Symphony Orchestra's first female CEO in January, she'll bring with her 21 years of experience vitalizing the Boston Symphony Orchestra — and a brain full of ideas for the one Dallas knows and loves.

Noltemy says the city's growth, excitement and cultural organizations drew her toward accepting the position. She was also impressed by the work of departing conductor Jaap van Zweden and what his tenure said about the management style at the DSO.

“There’s a lot of flexibility and creativity, and I thought that would be a really exciting environment in which to think about moving forward and being an orchestra that’s kind of on the cutting edge of the next generation of listeners,” Noltemy tells the Dallas Observer.

Noltemy, the former chief operating and communications officer of the Boston Symphony, managed $46 million in ticket sales and revenue. She specializes in innovation. In addition to raising the DSO’s profile, she wants to make it a leader in the industry. She used the words “cutting edge” more than once.

A significant component of the path forward is digital media, Noltemy says. It can be a struggle for orchestras to reach new audiences and spread appreciation for their classical music art form, and in Boston, Noltemy encouraged the symphony to embrace the screen-filled world we live in. She spearheaded development of its digital download service, podcasts, internet TV and website, now the most visited site of any orchestra in the U.S.

But her true goal is to get people to fall in love with live music. Part of her job in Boston was to sell out concerts.

“So this is the world we live in, and we need to have really interesting, persuasive and meaningful content for people that will convert them and educate them as to why the live concert experience is also amazing,” Noltemy says.

One of DSO's most cutting-edge programs is the Soluna International Music & Arts Festival, taking place from May 6-28. It's essentially the Coachella of fine arts, juxtaposing classical organ with Don Giovanni and guitar-smashing performance art. The festival aims to increase engagement with and collaboration among a variety of artists and other arts organizations, a critical move in today’s environment, in which arts organizations can suffer if they isolate, Noltemy says. Connecting classical music with other art forms will also attract generations raised on Katy Perry instead of Khachaturian, she says.

“We need to provide the bridge for them, and a festival like Soluna does that,” Noltemy says.

In some ways, Noltemy’s strategies build on ideas the DSO has already implemented. The symphony entertains more than 30,000 people at its youth concerts each year. Its ReMix series invites audiences to see great works but adds a twist — Debussy’s “Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun" with dancers, for instance. The ReMix program just entered its fifth year.

Noltemy’s arrival roughly coincides with another seismic shift in the top echelons: van Zweden's departure for the New York Philharmonic. As many DSO fans wait breathlessly for the announcement of his successor, she is working with the search committee to forge not just a business contract but a partnership for a multifaceted role that has changed significantly over the past 20 years. In addition to flawless work on the stage, the director must be a maestro in education, philanthropy and community engagement.

“Launching a new music director is kind of one of the most exciting things a classical music organization can do,” she says.

Noltemy says that relationships with artists, musicians, music directors, staff and the community will take center stage.  “Everyone needs to work together in total unanimity so that we can succeed,” she says.
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