Grand Rapids Symphony President and CEO Peter Kjome, who has led the orchestra through its international search for a new Music Director as well as to the successful conclusion of its $40 million Legacy of Excellence Campaign, has been named the new President and CEO of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra.
Kjome, who became GRS President in 2008, leaves the orchestra positioned for future growth with Music Director Marcelo Lehninger on the podium, a recent five-year collective bargaining agreement signed with the symphony musicians, and a new Strategic Plan adopted in May that will guide orchestra operations for years to come.
It’s a natural time for new leadership for the Grand Rapids Symphony as well as for Kjome to take up new challenges. He begins work on Feb. 1 with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, one of the 20 largest orchestras in the United States.
“Eight years ago, we set out a number of ambitious goals, including continuing to elevate artistic excellence, expanding our education programs, and launching and completing an endowment campaign,” he said. “With the support of our community, we have made great progress. The Symphony is ready to move forward toward a bright future with new leadership.”
In all, Kjome, 49, has been with the Grand Rapids Symphony for 16 years – first as a musician from 1990 to 1998, and for the past eight years as President.
“Our community was delighted when Peter returned to the Grand Rapids Symphony as President in 2008, and his leadership provides a strong foundation for our next President,” said GRS Board Chairperson Kate Pew Wolters. “We are confident that we will find an outstanding individual who will lead our great orchestra into the future.”
An important part of Kjome’s legacy is the appointment in June of Brazilian-born conductor Marcelo Lehninger, a former associate conductor of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, as Music Director with a five-year contract with the Grand Rapids Symphony.
“I am happy for Peter and congratulate him on his appointment as the President of the Baltimore Symphony,” Lehninger said. “It is wonderful that Peter has continued to lead the GRS during this time of transition.”
The Baltimore Symphony Orchestra is a 52-week orchestra with a budget that exceeds $27 million. The BSO, which celebrates its Centennial in 2016, reaches over 350,000 people per year. The Grand Rapids Symphony currently has a 40-week season and employs 80 musicians both full- and part-time. With an annual budget of over $9 million, the orchestra touches the lives of some 200,000 per year.
Both orchestras made history by appointing women as music director. In 1987 in Grand Rapids, Catherine Comet was appointed as Music Director of the Grand Rapids Symphony. Twenty years later in Baltimore, Marin Alsop became the first woman appointed to lead a major American orchestra.
Kjome, a graduate of the Cleveland Institute of Music, first came to Grand Rapids as a musician. In 1990, he joined the orchestra’s oboe section. Two years later, he was appointed Principal Oboist under former Music Director Catherine Comet. In his career as a musician, he has performed as a substitute with the Cleveland Orchestra and the Pittsburgh Symphony.
In 1998, the Minnesota native left the Grand Rapids Symphony to study business administration at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management. Following graduation in 2000, he went to work for the 3M Company in St. Paul, Minn., in strategic planning and business management. After eight years with the maker of Post-it® Notes and Scotch™ Tape, Kjome decided to return to the world of symphonic music.
In 2011, the League of American Orchestras presented Kjome with the Helen M. Thompson award for exceptional leadership.
Locally, Kjome has been a board member of the Economic Club of Grand Rapids and Blandford Nature Center. His past service also includes the Arts Advisory Committee of the 3M Foundation and the Community Capital Alliance. Kjome is married to Kristen Morrison, an artist who teaches at the Kendall College of Arts and Design of Ferris State University.
“I know that my work here has prepared me to contribute as I begin the next chapter of my career,” Kjome said. “I will conclude my tenure in Grand Rapids with a spirit of gratitude for the wonderful support of many people in our community who care deeply about our Symphony. It has been a tremendous inspiration to work with our Board, musicians, staff, and visionary community leaders like Richard and Helen DeVos as we continue to develop our extraordinary orchestra.”