The Baltimore Symphony Orchestra (BSO) announces the appointment of 29-year-old, American-born conductor Jonathon Heyward as Music Director, the holder of the Harvey M. and Lyn P. Meyerhoff Chair. Heyward’s five-year contract begins in the 2023-24 season. He will serve as Music Director Designate for the upcoming 2022-23 season and lead two weeks of performances in May 2023.
Heyward’s selection was unanimous from the Baltimore Symphony Music Director Search Committee, comprised of BSO musicians, staff, and community members. In March 2022, he led three performances that included the Baltimore Symphony’s first-ever performance of Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 15. Quickly re-engaged, he returned in April to lead a Benefit Concert for Ukraine at the Meyerhoff.
Jonathon says, “It is a tremendous honour to join the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra at this exciting time in its long and distinguished history,” said Heyward. “I believe we have a great opportunity to build on the storied achievements of the orchestra under Marin Alsop’s inspirational leadership and to explore the many ways in which we can reach the greatest number of people at home and overseas. I am passionate about the power of symphonic music to bring audiences together and to speak to all communities. The Baltimore Symphony’s irresistible artistry, energy, and optimism were clear to me from the first moment we rehearsed together earlier this year. We shared a special chemistry then and in the concerts we have given since. I look forward to seeing where that can take us in the years ahead.”
“Appointing Jonathan Heyward as music director is both incredibly inspirational and aspirational,” says BSO’s President and CEO Mark Hanson. “We are inspired by his artistry, passion, and vision for the BSO, as well as for what his appointment means for budding musicians who will see themselves better reflected in such a position of artistic prominence. At the same time, he is a star on the rise, and his vibrant talent, bold programming, and fervent commitment to community engagement will continue to grow our relationship with the many communities across Maryland.”
Jonathon Heyward, born in Charleston, South Carolina, began his musical training as a cellist at the age of ten and started conducting while still at school. He studied conducting at the Boston Conservatory of Music, where he became assistant conductor of the prestigious institution’s opera department and of the Boston Opera Collaborative, and received postgraduate lessons from Sian Edwards at London’s Royal Academy of Music. Before leaving the Academy, he was appointed assistant conductor of the Hallé Orchestra, where he was mentored by Sir Mark Elder, and became Music Director of the Hallé Youth Orchestra. His debut with the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain at the 2021 BBC Proms earned five-star reviews and was hailed by British newspaper The Guardian as ‘an unforgettable showcase of high-energy collaboration’.
Heyward’s commitment to education and community outreach work deepened during his three years with the Hallé and has flourished since he arrived in post as Chief Conductor of the Nordwestdeutsche Philharmonie in January 2021. He is equally committed to including new music within his imaginative concert programmes. Those qualities were evident in his Baltimore Symphony Orchestra debut bill, which comprised Hannah Kendall’s The Spark Catchers, Beethoven’s Third Piano Concerto and the first ever BSO outing for Shostakovich’s Fifteenth Symphony.
Since its foundation in 1916, the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra has been a source of civic pride to Baltimore and a beacon of musical excellence. Its international reputation grew under the distinguished music directorship of Sergiu Comissiona and has been enhanced since by his successors, David Zinman, Yuri Temirkanov and Marin Alsop (2007-21). It has been based at the Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall since 1982, legacy of the Ukrainian-born Baltimore businessman and philanthropist Joseph Meyerhoff. The BSO also presents a regular concert series at the Music Center at Strathmore in North Bethesda, Maryland, as well as performing concerts in the city of Frederick and Chesapeake College. In addition to its critically acclaimed work in the concert hall and on disc, the BSO operates an extensive community outreach programme and various ensembles under the umbrella of the Baltimore Symphony Youth Orchestras.
As Music Director Designate, Heyward returns to the Baltimore Symphony next May for performances of two concert programs (May 4-7, 2023 and May 19-21, 2023). Audiences can also learn more about Heyward through the BSO’s docuseries, BSO Sessions, at BSOmusic.org/OffStage.
Photo credit: Laura Thiesbrummel