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PERFECT! Fort Worth Symphony President and CEO Keith Cerny brings wide experience to the new job.

Paul Harral, Fort Worth Business Press
Keith Cerny, President and CEO

President and CEO

Keith Cerny, Ph.D.

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.  At the FWSO, Keith has partnered with Board Chairman Mrs. Mercedes T. Bass to recruit Robert Spano as Music Director and Kevin John Edusei as Principal Guest Conductor.  Keith and Mrs. Bass collaborated closely during the COVID-19 pandemic to keep musicians and staff on full pay and benefits during the three seasons affected by the virus, while also achieving balanced budgets.  Keith and Maestro Spano continue to work closely together on artistic programming, including the launch of “Theater of a Concert” projects and the chamber music series at the Kimbell Art Museum.  Keith has championed artistic collaboration with a wide range of organizations at the FWSO, including Texas Ballet Theater, Seraphic Fire, Dallas Black Dance Theatre, The Old Trout Puppet Workshop, and the Richardson and Carter museums.

Keith 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 performed regularly 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 Fulbright and Alfred Hertz fellowships 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 with Vilém Tauský and Harry Newstone, and privately with Maurice Handford.  He also studied piano with Natasha Spender, a protégé of Artur Schnabel, 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 full 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

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 four world premieres, hired Music Director Emmanuel Villaume and Principal Guest Conductor Nicole Paiement, and launched a series of 16 free public simulcasts in Cowboys Stadium and Klyde Warren Park that reached nearly 75,000 patrons in the U.S. and abroad. He also founded the Mellon Foundation funded Hart Institute for Women Conductors - a unique international program for women on the cusp of major conducting careers - and launched the Titus Art Song series and the national vocal competition.  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.

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 has served on NEA Opera panels three times, and as a symphony evaluator for the TCA.  He and his wife Jennifer have four sons, and a rescue Schnoodle named Libby.