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Trey Devey Concluding his Presidency of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra in April after 8 Successful Years


Devey to assume the presidency of the Interlochen Center for the Arts in Michigan

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CINCINNATI – Following eight extraordinary years leading the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra (CSO), the Orchestra announced today that President Trey Devey will be stepping down in six months to assume the presidency of the Interlochen Center for the Arts, Michigan’s largest arts institution. He will remain fully engaged with the CSO through mid-April and the Board of Directors will commence a search immediately to identify his successor.

The CSO, one of the nation’s leading orchestras, is excelling artistically, on solid footing financially, and primed for continued success as the Orchestra prepares for two international tours and its return to the renovated Music Hall in October of next year.

“The success and growth the CSO and Pops have experienced during my tenure represents a collective effort,” said Mr. Devey. “The responsibilities and the many positive outcomes have been possible thanks to collaborative work across the organization between the Board, musicians, administration, artistic leadership, volunteers and donors. It is truly the dream team, and I am honored and privileged to have served this great organization. I will commit myself fully to the CSO and our continued progress over the next six months and will be a lifelong champion of this orchestra and this community.”

“We are of course sorry to see Trey leave and are grateful for his thoughtful, effective and inspiring leadership,” said CSO Board Chair Francie Hiltz. “The CSO has the most compelling success story of any American orchestra these past eight years, and the Board is confident we will identify and attract excellent candidates from across the country to fill this important position. We are also confident that the organization’s senior management team, whose members average nine years of experience with the Orchestra, will provide leadership and ensure a smooth transition as the CSO’s mission continues to be advanced.”

The organization’s achievements during Mr. Devey’s tenure as president have garnered national attention for the CSO.

“For Trey, music has always come first and that is reflected in the Orchestra’s commitment to artistry and unparalleled concert experiences,” said CSO Music Director Louis Langrée.“Under his leadership and thanks to tremendous support, the organization has had the flexibility and resources necessary to push the envelope with innovative projects and collaborations.”

“Trey and his family have been very close to us for the past five years and we share a passion for the power of music to shape young lives,” said Cincinnati Pops Conductor John Morris Russell. “The addition of the CSYO Concert Orchestra to complement the CSYO Philharmonic in the youth orchestras program, our expanded Lollipops Family Concert series, and family friendly Pops presentations, as well as the truly groundbreaking CSO/CCM Diversity Fellowship with the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music have all been hallmarks of his tenure here, and have created a lasting impact.” 

Mr. Devey will become the eighth president of Interlochen in June. The center is a recipient of the National Medal of Arts and the only organization in the world that brings together: a 2,500-student summer camp program; a 500-student fine arts boarding high school; opportunities for hundreds of adults to engage in fulfilling artistic and creative programs; two 24-hour listener-supported public radio services (classical music and news); more than 600 arts presentations annually by students, faculty and world-renowned guest artists; a global alumni base spanning eight decades, including leaders in the arts and all other endeavors.

“There was only one organization that could pull me away from the CSO and that was Interlochen. I feel a deep responsibility at this point in my career to nurture the next generation of artists, citizens and leaders,” said Mr. Devey. “I am so proud of what we’ve accomplished together and am leaving Cincinnati confident in the future of the CSO. The culture of our Orchestra is second to none and the best is yet to come.”

The Cincinnati Turnaround

The CSO was in a negative cash flow position in early 2009 when Mr. Devey began his tenure, and endowment draws of up to 9.96 percent had contributed to the endowment plummeting from $92.7 to $56.2 million. The Orchestra’s structural deficit reached $6.5 million and the 2007-2008 season ended with a $3.8 million operating deficit.

“Trey agreed to arrive weeks early during January of 2009 in order to address daunting financial challenges facing the CSO,” said the President of the Cincinnati Musicians Association, Local 1, American Federation of Musicians and CSO Associate Principal Violist Paul Frankenfeld. “His first day on the job found him across the negotiating table from the CSO musician leadership and union officers. He already had a complete grasp of the finances of the institution, and collaboratively, we began to develop a plan to stabilize the budget. Balancing the requirements and hopes of the musicians with financial realities became the hallmark of Trey’s eight years with the Orchestra.”

The resulting budget stabilization plan announced in February of 2009 reduced operating costs by $2.8 million and required sacrifice throughout the organization. $1.8 million dollars of those savings came in the form of a concessionary contract with the musicians union that included an 11 percent wage reduction, making the CSO the first American orchestra to address major structural problems in the wake of the Great Recession.

This cooperation and collaboration inspired unprecedented community support. That 2008-2009 season closed with a balanced budget, achieved through not only those reductions in operating costs, but also increased contributions and an increase in average concert attendance. This was the first of eight consecutive years of balanced budget operations.
Following this balanced budget announcement in December of 2009 came a watershed moment for the CSO and the community when the late Louise Dieterle Nippert announced the creation of an $85 million fund to support the Orchestra and sustain classical music of the highest quality for the Greater Cincinnati community. “Her very clear message was for the community to invest in having a great orchestra with confidence that it could be sustained if we all worked together,” said Mr. Devey.

While the CSO worked on addressing the structural deficit starting in 2009, special one-time gifts totaling $6.4 million provided bridge funding to ensure balanced operating budgets.
Two years later in 2011, a contract extension with the musicians union and additional major philanthropy enabled the CSO to eliminate the Orchestra’s underfunded pension liability, a $10.6 million problem. Underfunded pensions had affected numerous companies, nonprofit organizations, unions and governments. The Orchestra subsequently raised an additional $4.8 million to eliminate all other outstanding debts.

Stemming from the 2009 budget stabilization agreement with the musicians, the CSO Board reaffirmed the policy of not undertaking tours, recordings and other special projects unless prior funding is secured and capped the endowment draw at five percent. The Board also instituted additional policies in 2011 to ensure the organization’s long-term financial health. These include the establishment of a deficit ceiling, limitations on borrowing, financial planning protocols, and designating unrestricted bequests to the Orchestra’s endowment.

In the spring of 2014, the CSO embarked on a quiet $20 million endowment campaign with the goal of restoring the musician complement, securing the ensemble as one of only 15 fulltime, 52-week orchestras in the country, and fully eliminating the organization’s structural deficit. The campaign exceeded that $20 million goal by $6 million, and the Orchestra agreed to a five-year contract with its musicians ahead of schedule in May of 2015, earning international attention and reinforcing the unique collaborative culture of the CSO.
The campaign also allowed the CSO to reduce the endowment draw rate from 5 percent to 4.5 percent by 2020, which is in line with non-profit best practices and ensures greater long-term sustainability.

“Think Crescendo, Not Diminuendo” for the CSO

According to a New York Times article from May of 2015, “The orchestra world is all too familiar with vicious cycles of mounting deficits, dwindling audiences, difficulty raising money and cuts. But at the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, things are moving happily in the opposite direction: think crescendo, not diminuendo.”

The CSO, which also performs, records and tours as the Cincinnati Pops, has experienced artistic triumphs and double digit average attendance increases during this under Mr. Devey’s leadership, and millions of dollars have been raised to support commissions, national radio broadcasts, television broadcasts, commercial recordings, artistic collaborations, tours, digital downloads, web streaming, and groundbreaking initiatives like One City, One Symphony, LUMENOCITY, the MusicNOW Festival collaboration and the Pelléas Trilogy.

Mr. Devey has led the organization through artistic leadership transitions. The Orchestra selected John Morris Russell to succeed the late Erich Kunzel as Cincinnati Pops Conductor in 2010, and named Louis Langrée to succeed Paavo Järvi as CSO Music Director in 2013, and during the CSO’s two-year transition in artistic leadership, the Orchestra successfully engaged luminaries of the music world as creative directors to offer artistic guidance.

There have been 40 sold-out performances since 2009, compared to just two sellouts in the preceding five years. Attendance has increased by 15 percent for the CSO and 17 percent for the Cincinnati Pops since 2009.

That audience enthusiasm is a reflection of great artistry and innovative programming, including the continuation of the orchestra cannon. The CSO has commissioned 24 world premieres over the past eight years, and there are an additional seven new works in the pipeline.

The CSO launched its own recording label, Fanfare Cincinnati, in 2010 under Mr. Devey’s leadership, and has released nine CSO and Cincinnati Pops albums to date with a tenth coming in November, in addition to two CSO and May Festival releases on other labels. The Orchestra’s digital presence has also greatly expanded since 2009 with online videos, music streaming and downloads, and social media engagement that all reaches a global audience.

The Orchestra has continued to fulfill its role as Cincinnati’s ambassador with tours to Japan in 2009, Florida as the Pops in 2014, and three performances in New York at Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center. During Mr. Devey’s tenure, the Cincinnati Symphony Youth Orchestra has also toured to Chicago and New York. 

In September, two extensive international tours were announced for 2017 that will feature 17 concerts in 12 cities across 7 countries on two continents.

Back in Cincinnati, the Orchestra has put considerable energy and resources into engaging the community it serves. Over the past eight years, participation in education and community engagement activities has increased by 71 percent, thanks in large part to the “In Your Neighborhood” program where CSO musicians exchange orchestra services for performance opportunities in schools, hospitals, libraries, and other community spaces. This has allowed CSO musicians many opportunities to connect with their community in meaningful ways.

The CSO’s diversity and inclusion efforts have also garnered acclaim and awards, and the expansion of the Classical Roots program in 2011 gave birth to a highly-anticipated annual concert event featuring a mass choir of 150 volunteer singers from predominantly African-American churches from across the region that perform with the Orchestra.

The CSO has also taken the industry lead on diversity and developing the next generation orchestral talent with the CSO/CCM Diversity Fellowship, a groundbreaking collaboration with the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music funded by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

The CSO has received numerous awards during Mr. Devey’s tenure: 2013 Outstanding Directors Award, Non-Profit Category (Cincinnati Business Courier); 2013 Inaugural Tri-State Regional Workplace Inclusion Award (BRIDGES for a Just Community); 2014 Queen City Advocate Award (Cincinnati Convention and Visitors Bureau); 2014 Norma Petersen Star Award (Over-the-Rhine Chamber); 2014 Outstanding Work in the Arts Award (The Links); 2014 Nonprofit of the Year (Cincinnati Convention and Visitors Bureau); 2015 Central Area Awards for the Arts (The Links); 2015 Wendell P. Dabney Award for Diversity (Cincinnati Convention and Visitors Bureau); 2015 Board Excellence Award (Cincinnati Business Courier).

The CSO’s Music and Event Management Inc. (MEMI) subsidiary, which presents a diverse array of concert experiences with touring artists at Riverbend Music Center, the PNC Pavilion, Taft Theatre and Rose Music Center, has also experienced considerable growth. In 2009, MEMI presented 38 events with just under 296,000 total attendees, and that increased to 254 events with over 711,000 total attendees in 2016.

The May Festival

Through a management agreement, the CSO president also serves as president of the Cincinnati May Festival, which just named acclaimed conductor Juanjo Mena as Principal Conductor Designate as part of a new artistic leadership model following the departure of Music Director James Conlon earlier this year. Founded in 1873 from the proud German traditions of singing societies, the May Festival is directly responsible for the development of Cincinnati’s modern music life. Music Hall, the city’s primary concert venue, was built specifically to house the Festival’s performances. As the oldest and one of the most prestigious choral festivals in the Western Hemisphere, the May Festival is a unique community asset unlike anything else in the world. In addition to the annual Festival, the May Festival Chorus performs year-round as the official chorus of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra and Cincinnati Pops and with fellow arts partners in diverse venues across the region. With its mission to engage, energize and connect the community, the May Festival is a valuable Cincinnati resource.
Music Hall Renovation Continues

Music Hall, one the nation’s most treasured performance venues and home of the CSO, Cincinnati Pops and the May Festival, is undergoing a major renovation in Cincinnati’s Over-the-Rhine neighborhood. This project is realizing long-awaited updates and upgrades throughout this iconic structure that build upon its world-class acoustics and retain the hall’s historic grandeur. No fewer than ten non-profit and governmental agencies have coalesced around this project.

The $135 million project, led by the Music Hall Revitalization Company, managed by 3CDC and guided by an exceptional design team, is on schedule and running smoothly. The resident companies of Music Hall, including the CSO and May Festival, have been active voices in the process from supporting the required fundraising to ensuring an extraordinary patron experience.

During this historic renovation while Music Hall is closed, the CSO and May Festival performances are taking place at the historic Taft Theatre. Over 400 action items are being implemented during this period to support a smooth transition for our patrons and to safeguard the precious assets of the CSO, Pops and May Festival.
About the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra and Cincinnati Pops

The Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, which also performs as the Cincinnati Pops, is one of America’s finest and most versatile ensembles. With a determination for greatness and a rich tradition that dates back over 120 years, the internationally acclaimed CSO attracts the best musicians, artists and conductors from around the world to Cincinnati. With new commissions and groundbreaking initiatives like LUMENOCITY®, One City, One Symphony, and the MusicNOW Festival collaboration, the Orchestra is committed to being a place of experimentation. As the Cincinnati Pops, the Orchestra presents a diverse array of musical styles, all bathed in the world-renowned “Cincinnati Sound.” The Pops was officially founded in 1977 with the late Erich Kunzel, and just since 1980, the Orchestra has sold ten million recordings around the globe.