Change Is In the Air

Robert Massey is the Jacksonville Symphony’s new President and CEO. Photo by Tiffany Manning

Robert Massey is the Jacksonville Symphony’s new President and CEO.
Photo by Tiffany Manning

Change is in the air at the Jacksonville Symphony. The addition of Music Director Courtney Lewis, in May, and President & CEO Robert Massey, in January, marks the dawn of a new era for the city’s largest cultural institution.

Massey comes to the JSO with a background that includes both musical performance and administration. Most recently, he was chief executive officer of Orchestra Iowa.

His lifelong love of music began during his childhood. As the son of a career marine who was transferred frequently, Massey felt the sting of being the new kid in school many times. When he discovered his dad’s trumpet in the house, he made an enduring friend in music that also helped introduce him to other musicians at each new school.

An Eagle Scout, he received his bachelor’s degree in Trumpet Performance from the New England Conservatory in Boston, while he worked part-time at the Boston Symphony Orchestra. His aha moment was realizing that he had more fun managing than performing. He spent a year at the Paris Conservatory/University of Paris obtaining a master’s degree in Arts Management. From there he moved to the Germantown (Tenn.) Performing Arts Center and had stints with “The President’s Own” U.S. Marine Band in Washington, D.C., The Kennedy Center/Washington National Opera, The Phillips Collection (Washington, D.C.) and the Washington Bach Consort before his position with Orchestra Iowa.

Just after his start in Iowa in 2008, catastrophic  floods in the Midwest destroyed the orchestra’s home. Massey started his job with no performance venue and an orchestra heavily in debt. He was able to expand the institution’s geographic reach, audience and brand; obtain funding to restore the historic Paramount Theatre and Orchestra Iowa’s administrative offices and partner with venues, educational institutions, opera and ballet on new endeavors.

What does he have in store for Jacksonville? Robert Massey’s vision for the Jacksonville Symphony is perfectly in tune with Courtney Lewis’ approach: both want the JSO to reflect the vibrancy of the community.

“Jacksonville’s symphony is on the cusp of greatness,” says Massey. “I want to corral the warmth of the city’s people and their passion for the city and the orchestra to synergize it into something great.”

His goals include bringing the orchestra to the people utilizing many of the venues located throughout the area. He and Lewis are also out to dispel the myth that the symphony isn’t for everyone. He points out that when you go to a movie or watch television, it’s often accompanied by background music. Not all symphonic music is a hundred years old.  He looks forward to introducing new music to the community.

Massey’s Orchestra Iowa experience included development of Music in the Schools, a program that presented live performances to forty elementary schools each season. His work with music education will support the Jacksonville Symphony’s music education programs that include in-school ensemble performances, Young People’s Concerts, Instrument Zoo, Jump Start Strings and the Jacksonville Symphony Youth Orchestra.

Called the “Steve Jobs of the Symphony Industry” by Arts Journal, Robert Massey is leading the charge at the Jacksonville Symphony along with Music Director Courtney Lewis. “Change is in the Air” sounds like a great duet.

Article written by Amy Rankin

For more information about the Jacksonville Symphony, visit, like them on Facebook at, and follow them on Twitter @jaxsymphony.

Author: Arbus

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