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Kevin Smith to be interim CEO of Minnesota Orchestra, starting in fall

The MOA also announced the appointment of Dianne Brennan as vice president of advancement. 

smith portrait
Kevin Smith

Kevin Smith, former president of the Minnesota Opera, will serve as interim president and CEO of the Minnesota Orchestra after Michael Henson leaves and until a permanent successor is found, the Orchestra announced late Thursday.

We’ve known since March 20 that Henson would step down and that his last day would be Aug. 31. With Osmo Vänskä back as artistic director and the orchestra hard at work rebuilding what was badly damaged by a 16-month lockout of the musicians, the looming vacancy at the top of the MOA’s management was worrisome. 

Smith led the Minnesota Opera for 25 years before his retirement in 2011, during which the company expanded its season, doubled its attendance and grew its budget from $1.5 million to $9 million.

Smith was also instrumental in forging the Arts Partnership, which turned the Ordway from a battleground of competing organizations into the smoothly running ship it is today. As campaign director for the Partnership, he helped raise more than $79 million to renovate the Ordway and establish an endowment to support its principal tenants. About the only thing that would make Smith sound even better for his new role would be the revelation that he’s a virtuoso violinist.

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Board chair Gordon Sprenger said in a statement, “Kevin Smith commands the respect of our arts community, and he will provide stable, knowledgeable leadership while we undertake a thorough President Search process.” Smith said, “I’m proud to have the opportunity to serve this great Orchestra during a time of growth and transition, and I look forward to working with constituents within the organization and throughout the community to build artistic energy and institutional momentum.”

Smith will begin work at the orchestra in July.

The MOA also announced the appointment of Dianne Brennan as vice president of advancement. Brennan was director of development for the Guthrie Theater from 1997 to 2013. Funds raised during her tenure totaled nearly $250 million, including $90 million to build the new Guthrie.

Sprenger praised Brennan’s “tremendous experience in the Twin Cities fundraising community” and her “great love of the arts.”