Two weeks after the surprise announcement that he would be stepping down from his position as president of the Banff Centre, Jeff Melanson has been named president and CEO of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, and appointed Senior Resident of Massey College at the University of Toronto. Both announcements were made Thursday in Toronto.
"It's exciting; challenging for sure," Melanson told The Globe and Mail, saying he had already made the decision to return to Toronto when he was approached by the TSO. "I'm very interested in turning this into a globally competitive orchestra, which is what we will do."
This sentiment was echoed by TSO music director Peter Oundjian. "Jeff has an extremely charismatic personality and I find the idea of working together very energizing," said Oundjian in a statement. "I look forward to forging our partnership and leading the excellent musicians of the TSO, together, to a position of significant international stature."
Melanson's background is in music and performance; he studied music at the University of Manitoba, and has held leadership positions at the National Ballet School and the Community School at the Royal Conservatory of Music, both in Toronto. He was appointed president of the Banff Centre in 2012.
"In our search for a new CEO, our primary focus was to find an accomplished leader in the arts with a strong strategic vision and a track record of successful fundraising," said TSO board chair Christopher J. Hodgson in a statement, calling Melanson "a bold change-agent."
At the University of Toronto, Melanson is planning to use his time as senior resident to "ensure arts and creativity become a central focus for city building" according to a university news release. He will also use the time to work on a book he is writing about creativity for Harper Collins. And he will be a senior fellow at the U of T's Munk School of Global Affairs, cross-appointed to its Innovation Policy Lab.
"Jeff is a visionary leader with a rare ability to span the arts and business communities successfully," said U of T President Meric Gertler in a statement. "The U of T and the whole city will benefit from Jeff's decision to return to Toronto."
Melanson begins work at the TSO on November 1. He will remain at the Banff Centre through September. He announced his resignation on April 10, citing personal reasons; his three children live in Toronto with their mother.
In the wake of Melanson's resignation, the board of the Banff Centre says it remains committed to implementing its 2013 strategic plan, which calls for an ambitious, $1-billion rebuild of the arts institution.
"We're definitely sad to see him go, but we have developed with him and the board and the staff a really great strategic plan so we have that to go forward with," board chair Brenda Mackie told The Globe. "So it's tough; we'll get through it. I think the Banff Centre has never been and can never be about one person. It's about the vision of the Banff Centre, so that's kind of what we're hanging on."