Fort Worth Symphony names Cerny, former head of Dallas Opera, as new president and CEO

Keith Cerny 

New president, CEO at Fort Worth Symphony

Former Dallas Opera leader returns to Texas

After an intensive, international search, the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra (FWSO) on Aug. 27 announced the appointment of Keith Cerny as president and CEO, effective Jan. 11, 2019.

Cerny joins the FWSO from Calgary Opera, where he has served as general director and CEO for about eight months. Prior to joining Calgary Opera, he led The Dallas Opera as general director and CEO between 2010 and early 2018.

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“Patience and perseverance proved us right in finding the perfect candidate to lead the FWSO into the next chapter,” said Board Chair Mercedes Bass in a news release. “Keith’s varied experiences with different organizations in multiple capacities prove that he is indeed highly qualified to be leading the FWSO. We are confident that the board, music director, staff and musicians will enjoy working with Keith when he joins us in January, and it is indeed a great pleasure to welcome Keith and his wife Jennifer to the FWSO family.”

Known for “his storied history of innovation,” according to the Toronto Globe and Mail, 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.

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Following graduation from Berkeley, Cerny 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 (tutor’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, Cerny worked for the management consulting firms McKinsey & Co. and Accenture, rising to the level of partner in communications and high technology at Accenture.

He is currently the general director and CEO of Calgary Opera, one of Canada’s largest opera companies, where he has 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, an online music service. Between 2010 and early 2018, he was general director and CEO of The Dallas Opera, where his tenure was “notable for both its artistic innovation and its fiscal stability,” according to the Opera News.

During this time, Cerny 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.

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He produced two DVDs and two CDs and founded the Hart Institute for Women Conductors – a unique international program for women pursuing 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. Cerny is a former board member of OPERA America and served as chair of the Strategy Committee.

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.

“I am delighted to assume the role of president and CEO of the FWSO, and to partner with the board, music director, and senior staff to lead this outstanding orchestra to new artistic heights,” Cerny said. “I have been impressed with the board’s commitment to artistic excellence and community engagement, both of which are compelling to me.”

Cerny said the travel demands of his position in Calgary put a strain on his family back in Texas.

“As a result, I have made the difficult decision to step down next year. I will continue to work with the board of the Calgary Opera to implement the company’s new strategy until I depart for my new position in Fort Worth,” he said.

Music Director Miguel Harth-Bedoya commented that “while Keith and I have known one another for several years in the Metroplex, we have not yet had the opportunity to partner on a musical project. I know that he and I share a common love of the orchestral and operatic repertoire and championing exciting new works, and I look forward to working with him closely in his new role.”

Harth-Bedoya announced earlier this year that he will step down from the Symphony in 2020.

– FWBP Staff