Jeff Melanson, MBA Wilfrid Laurier, 1999
CEO of Toronto Symphony Orchestra
After two years at the helm of the Banff Centre for the Arts, Jeff Melanson will start the fall with a prestigious new job, in a familiar city. Melanson returns to Toronto as president and CEO of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra.
While he says he has some “key ideas,” he wants to build a vision for the future of the historic cultural institution by asking for input from those who know it best.
“There’s an assumption the senior management are the visionary leaders and everyone else serves the vision,” Melanson says. “What businesses are finding is that you create tremendous success by creating employee engagement.”
For the Symphony, that means launching a creative brainstorm that will tap orchestra members, administrative and other staff who are “steeped in the culture” of the symphony.
This latest career challenge — ensuring the STO is a “globally relevant leading orchestra”, while hacking away at a reported $12 million deficit — comes after Melanson spent time as executive director of Canada’s National Ballet School and Dean of the Royal Conservatory of Music. Melanson will also take up a Massey College residency at the University of Toronto.
“I was lucky enough to discover music at university,” says Melanson. He majored in music at the University of Manitoba, as an opera singer.
“I realized there were many people who could sing as I could sing, but many of the organizations I was falling in love with were struggling to continue to grow and expand.”
Melanson’s passion for the arts made him a perfect candidate for an MBA, he says. “For me, the missing pieces were economic modeling, financial growth, marketing strategy. I gained an incredible amount that was the perfect compliment to all the left-brain thinking I’d been doing.”
“It wasn’t about making more money,” he adds. “It was finding a way to build flexible, dynamic economic models around something I was passionate about.”
Melanson has become that rare blend of an artist with a strong mind for business, helping arts organizations become more robust and successful, and making sure “art and creativity was shared broadly with as many people as possible.”