Cary Byrd has been named the Baton Rouge Symphony Orchestra’s new president and executive director.
The announcement was made Friday at a luncheon to promote the symphony’s upcoming season. Byrd replaces Ron Ross, who has served as interim executive director since Alan Hopper’s departure in May.
The new job is a homecoming for Byrd, who was the assistant principal French horn player in the orchestra while working on his master’s degree in music performance at LSU.
“That was in 1998,” Byrd said. “I earned my master’s degree in 2000.”
Byrd worked as a graduate student for LSU Alumni Relations, then was named coordinator of development for the LSU School of Music in 2000. He eventually was named director of development for the LSU College of Music and Dramatic Arts.
During his tenure at LSU, Byrd worked to establish the LSU Opera Endowment, and gathered numerous gifts for scholarships, professorships and a new concert facility. He also cultivated a $1 million contribution for the Forever LSU Campaign in support of the new Tiger Band Hall.
Byrd left Baton Rouge in 2005 to work as director of individual giving at the Houston Grand Opera. He’s spent the last seven years as director of Da Camera of Houston, the city’s premiere organization for chamber music and jazz.
Now he’s back in the city he deemed a mistake when his dad first dropped him off at LSU.
“I’m from Huntsville, South Carolina, and I thought, ‘What have I done?’ ” Byrd said. “I said, ‘I’ve just moved to the middle of a swamp.’ I really cried after my dad left me there.”
But his perspective quickly changed.
“I consider Baton Rouge my home now,” Byrd said. “I love the people and the personal connectedness I have with them and the city. I heard about the job opening by accident, but I called immediately about it.”
Byrd also is excited to return to the symphony, though in a different capacity.
“I am so happy to be able to work with the Baton Rouge Symphony and its incredible musicians,” he said. “I believe strongly that music is real and relevant to a community, and if people don’t know it’s relevant, it’s our fault. Our job is to find ways to make music relevant to them, to reach out to them.”
Byrd plans to keep the symphony’s programming in place but also work with Music Director and Conductor Timothy Muffitt and the board of directors to grow the organization. Some symphonies are enhancing their concerts by adding video technology, along with other visual aids.
Byrd welcomes such innovations but approaches them with caution. “We want to be progressive in a responsible manner,” he says. “We want to come up with innovative ways to reach our community, but we want to do it our way.”
Muffitt is excited about having Byrd onboard.
“He knows the performance side of music and the business side of music, and that’s a powerful combination,” Muffit said. “I was the conductor when Cary played in the symphony, and I look forward to working with him in this capacity.”
Ross also offered his accolades. Byrd was Ross’ director of development when Ross was head of the LSU College of Music and Dramatic Arts.
“We are delighted to have Cary join our Baton Rouge Symphony Orchestra family,” Ross says. “It was readily apparent in our initial meetings that Cary’s experience and skill set were a natural fit with the organization.”