Robert Massey Named President and CEO of the Jacksonville Symphony

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Orchestra Iowa’s Robert Massey Named President & CEO of Jacksonville Symphony


Jade Burgess
Marketing Manager

CEDAR RAPIDS, IA- December 11, 2014, Robert Massey, Orchestra Iowa’s dynamic CEO who led the organization through catastrophic flooding, restoration, rebranding and an amazing period of growth, will step down from his position to take the chief executive post with Florida’s largest professional orchestra.

Massey, 44, came to Cedar Rapids from Washington, DC, where he held leadership positions with the Washington Bach Consort, Washington National Opera and “The President’s Own” U.S. Marine Band. He was recruited by the board of the then Cedar Rapids Symphony to help turn around an organization continually operating under a deficit, seeing declines in audience and funding, and suffering from institution-wide low morale. He arrived June 1, 2008, just days before the region was devastated by the Flood of 2008.

Massey, along with Orchestra Iowa Music Director Timothy Hankewich, musicians, board and staff, saw the flood as an opportunity to change failing business models. They expanded the organization’s geographic footprint and became a regional symphony orchestra that now performs in multiple cities across Eastern Iowa. They expanded the institution’s artistic programming, created partnerships with the Cedar Rapid Opera Theatre, Ballet Quad Cities, the University of Iowa’s Hancher and Theatre Cedar Rapids. They not only restored their own building but played a vital role in the Paramount Theatre restoration. They implemented new, innovative business models that included the creation of the Opus Concert Café, Paramount Presents, and an exciting venture with VenuWorks that saw the Orchestra serving as the ticketing and marketing arm of the Paramount Theatre. The organization changed its name to Orchestra Iowa and it recreated its brand, redefining what it means to be a symphony orchestra. The operating budget grew from $1.5 million to $3 million. Annual audiences have increased from 20,000 to 100,000.

“Orchestra Iowa has been extremely fortunate to have enjoyed Robert Massey’s leadership as its CEO since the spring of 2008,” said Board Chair Don Thompson. “Robert is literally a force of nature. He is incredibly smart, driven, professional, creative and goal-oriented. We are losing an excellent CEO and the Jacksonville Symphony has hit a home run by hiring Robert as their new President and CEO. We wish Robert, his wife Lisa (an excellent musician in the orchestra who will also be sorely missed) and their daughter, Elsie, the best. Fortunately, Robert has also proven to be a rare judge of talent and an effective mentor. He leaves us with an incredible administrative staff of highly skilled and competent men and women dedicated to Orchestra Iowa. In many ways, Robert has prepared us for his eventual departure and the work he has done has paved the way for our continued success.”

The CEO position isn’t the only key post the Orchestra is losing. Massey’s wife, Lisa Ponton, has served as principal viola since 2008.

“Robert joined Orchestra Iowa in the hour of our greatest need,” said Music Director Timothy Hankewich. “As he helped this community respond to the flood, he transformed our organization in ways I could have never imagined. He was pivotal in saving the Paramount and active in its re-design to give the grand dame a new lease on life. He helped Orchestra Iowa extend its reach throughout the state and brought new and more expansive art to our community with partnerships with Ballet Quad Cities, Cedar Rapids Opera Theatre and many others. He has one of the most flexible minds I know as he imagined and transformed Brucemore and Veterans Memorial Stadium into concert venues, and had the expertise and business acumen to change us from a financially distressed organization into one that leads our peers. I will miss him most of all as Florida has recruited one of my best friends.”

The Jacksonville Symphony operates with a $10 million budget, 38 full-time employees and a roster of 67 full-time musicians.

“This has been an incredible journey and I am so thankful to all those who have joined us along the way,” said Massey. “We will always cherish our time here and know the friends we’ve made will remain with us for life.”

Massey leaves behind an orchestra in much better shape than in which he found it. Some of his key accomplishments include:

  • Kept the Orchestra in operation following the epic floods of 2008
  • Created Brucemorchestra!, a cultural event that quickly became the most popular of the season
  • Raised $7 million to restore the Orchestra Iowa building and create the Opus Concert Café
  • Worked as part of the Paramount restoration committee to gain acoustical improvements, audience amenities, deeper stagehouse, larger orchestra pit and sprung dance floor in the Theatre
  • Expanded Orchestra Iowa’s concerts to Iowa City and beyond the Creative Corridor
  • Created Orchestra Iowa’s Showcase Chamber Series
  • Commissioned and produced American Gothic, a work by Cedar Rapids’ own Michael Daugherty, Orchestra Iowa’s first commercial recording
  • Created Paramount Presents, bringing high profile artists including Harry Connick Jr., Chris Botti, William Shatner and Pink Martini to Iowa
  • Expanded Music in the Schools, an outreach program bringing Orchestra Iowa ensembles into first, second, third and fourth grade classrooms, to include all Cedar Rapids and Iowa City Community School District schools
  • Formed partnerships with Ballet Quad Cities, Cedar Rapids Opera Theatre and VenuWorks to expand the Orchestra’s programming and business offerings

Orchestra Iowa

Orchestra Iowa is recognized as the state’s premier symphony orchestra, under the direction Timothy Hankewich, now in his ninth year as Music Director.

Founded in 1921, the mission of Orchestra Iowa is “to foster enjoyment of and support for fine symphonic music through quality performances, education and community involvement.” Its 68 professional musicians perform more than 180 public performances throughout the year, many of which can be heard on Iowa Public Radio and seen on Iowa Public Television. Orchestra Iowa showcases its artistic excellence each season through an accomplished array of classical, ballet, opera, popular and chamber performances, in addition to extensive community education and involvement.