Meet Baltimore Symphony Orchestra’s New Black Director Jonathan Heyward

Baltimore Symphony Orchestra’s new director Jonathan Heyward takes the podium. Screenshot via @baltsymphony on Instagram.

What’s happening?

The Baltimore Symphony Orchestra’s new music director Jonathan Heyward—who begins his five-year contract in September—announced plans for his first upcoming season, Mary Carole McCauley reports for the Baltimore Sun. When Heyward begins his tenure, he will be the only Black American conductor of one of the 24 biggest-budget U.S. symphonies, as well as the youngest at age 31. 

What are the details of the season so far?

Heyward plans to incorporate more opera into the BSO’s repertoire, as the musical genre has remained relatively absent from the city for more than a decade. He aims to provide more soloist opportunities for BSO’s in-house musicians and feature more collaborations with local artists such as hip-hop artist Wordsmith (Anthony Parker) to Morgan State University professor James Lee III, a well-known orchestral, choral, and band composer. 

He also plans to introduce a host of community outreach events. Though he has yet to announce the specifics of the programs, they will likely include a new college campus series where BSO will travel to universities across the region. BSO will also provide mentorship and education for minority students at the Baltimore School for the Arts, where  more than half of the teenage students are Black, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. 

With the series, Heyward hopes to develop a pipeline for minority musicians into the orchestral industry—where currently only 1.8 percent of classical musicians are African American, according to a 2016 poll by the League of American Orchestras. 

Anything else I should know? 

The 2023-24 season opens on Sept. 22 at the Music Center of Strathmore in North Bethesda. BSO will host its annual gala on Sept. 23 at the Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall, and the symphony will perform a free public concert to celebrate the return of Artscape on Sept. 24. 

You can read more here. 

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