Known for "his storied history of innovation" (Toronto Globe and Mail), and "administrative prowess" during the pandemic (Musical America), Dr. Keith Cerny’s career spans classical music, technology, and business. He began his musical studies singing with the San Francisco Boys Chorus, where he performed with the San Francisco Opera and the San Francisco Symphony. He also began playing piano at age 10 and performed extensively in his teens as a pianist and conductor with a number of organizations, including the Berkeley Contemporary Chamber Players. He studied music and physics at the University of California at Berkeley, graduating with highest honors in both disciplines.
Following graduation from Berkeley, Keith was awarded a Fulbright fellowship to London. There, he studied and freelanced for four years as a pianist, vocal coach, and conductor. He studied conducting at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama and attended the repetiteur’s training course at the English National Opera. He subsequently received an MBA with distinction from the Harvard Business School, and a Ph.D. in econometrics and development policy from the Open University in the U.K.
After business school, Keith worked for the management consulting firms McKinsey & Co. and Accenture, rising to the level of Partner in Communications and High Technology at Accenture. Prior to his appointment at the FWSO, he served as General Director & CEO of Calgary Opera, one of Canada’s largest opera companies, where he focused on innovative programming and artistic collaboration. He served as Executive Director (COO) and CFO of the San Francisco Opera between 2004 and 2007, and subsequently as CEO of SheetMusicPlus.com. Between 2010 and early 2018, he was General Director & CEO of The Dallas Opera, where his tenure was “notable for both its artistic innovation and its fiscal stability (Opera News).” During this time, Keith commissioned three world premieres, hired an internationally acclaimed music director, Emmanuel Villaume, and principal guest conductor, Nicole Paiement, and launched a series of 16 free public simulcasts that reached nearly 75,000 patrons in the U.S. and abroad. He produced two DVDs and two CDs and founded the Mellon Foundation funded Hart Institute for Women Conductors - a unique international program for women on the cusp of major conducting careers. In 2017, The Dallas Opera was awarded the honor of hosting the annual OPERA America conference, for the first time in 30 years. Keith is a former Board member of OPERA America and served as Chair of the Strategy Committee. He has also served on NEA Opera panels three times.
In 2021, Keith was named by D CEO Magazine as one of four finalists for "Leadership Excellence" of large non-profits, and in 2017 Keith was awarded the Visionary Arts Leader Award from the Business Council of the Arts in Dallas. He and his wife Jennifer have four sons, and a rescue Schnoodle named Libby.