The Seattle Youth Symphony Orchestra invites applications and
nominations for the position of Executive Director, available in
Founded in 1942, Seattle Youth Symphony Orchestra (SYSO) is one
of the largest and most highly regarded youth orchestra training
programs in North America. The organization creates access to
music education for more than 1,800 young people each year and its
membership reflects the rich diversity of the greater Seattle
community. Through six youth orchestras, two summer festival
programs, a conservatory program, and extensive partnerships with
public schools and community groups, SYSO creates music engagement
opportunities for more than 35,000 young musicians, family members,
audience members, and patrons each year.
SYSO’s mission is to harness the power of music education to
provide young people with pathways to artistic excellence,
intellectual development, and emotional growth. SYSO’s vision
is to provide an inclusive and welcoming environment for young
people publicly performing in ensembles large and small throughout
the greater Seattle area. SYSO envisions a youth orchestra
community that advances equitable artistic practices, uplifts all
musicians, and provides them with educational experiences connected
to their lives and communities.
SYSO enjoys a prestigious reputation as a high caliber orchestra
and counts many acclaimed professional musicians among its alumni,
including three founding members of the Kronos Quartet. In
addition to the Seattle Youth Symphony Orchestra, SYSO includes
five training orchestras: the Junior Symphony; the Debut Symphony;
the Symphonette; the Prelude String Orchestra; and MY
Southwest. SYSO’s newest program, MY Southeast, is an
orchestra designed for string and percussion students and is
offered without fee to applicants in middle through high school.
In addition to the Seattle Youth Symphony Orchestra and its
training orchestras, SYSO provides a wide variety of other
opportunities for young musicians. These programs include the
SYSO Summer Music day camp and innovative public school
partnerships such as the Musical Pathways Project, which
provides equitable access to high-quality music instruction to
youth from low-income households.
Advanced students can have an intensive musical experience in
orchestra and chamber music during SYSO’s nationally recognized
two-week summer festival, Marrowstone Music. A merger with
the Seattle Conservatory of Music now enables SYSO to encourage,
guide, and prepare young musicians who aspire to professional
SYSO is a unique and extraordinarily multifaceted organization.
It is similar to a private school with a diverse parent and student
base; it is an arts organization with earned income from ticket
sales from concerts, events, and festivals; it is akin to a
university with an extensive alumni and parent/grandparent network;
and it is similar to a youth development organization with a focus
on underserved populations.
By awarding more than $100,000 in financial aid annually, SYSO
ensures that every talented student from age seven to 22 is able to
participate in the program that is right for them, regardless of
the student’s financial resources.
SYSO has an operating budget of $2.2 million and is governed by
a Board of 15 volunteers that includes professional musicians,
educators, and community leaders. Additional support is
provided by an active parent association. Juan Felipe Molano
has served as Music Director of SYSO since 2019. The
Executive Director and the Music Director lead a team of eight
staff members, four conductors, and more than 30 music coaches.
Nicknamed “The Emerald City,” Seattle is surrounded with
majestic mountains, sparkling bodies of water, and lush greenery
year-round. Many say the region’s verdant landscapes
and plentiful rain are what drive the innovative spirit of this
city. With music, art and culture, Fortune 500 companies,
philanthropy, social justice, geo-political initiatives, education,
food, coffee, public parks and spaces, engineering, architecture,
ferries, island life, and conservation, Seattle continues to be at
the epicenter of innovation. Both Forbes and AARP name
Seattle one of the top three “Most Livable Large Cities in
America.” Seattle’s diverse population of more than 4
million also ranked #2 among “The Most Literate Cities in the
Country.” All these qualities and assets make Seattle a
great place to live, work, and visit.
Seattle is a city that highly values the intersectionality of
the arts, culture, economy, and social impact. Arts and culture
generate more than $2.4 billion in economic activity in the state
of Washington every year and create more than 35,000 jobs, many of
them in Seattle. For more than 80 years, SYSO has been a part
of the fabric of the city.
The Executive Director and the Music Director are co-leaders of
the organization, ensuring SYSO’s artistic, educational,
organizational, and financial success. The Executive Director
(ED) is the chief administrative officer and reports to the Board
of Directors. The ED is responsible and accountable for the
leadership and management of the organization’s finances and
operations. The ED works with the Board and the Music
Director to set strategic priorities and ensure the operational
success of artistic and educational programming. The ED
develops and implements a budget for Board approval and with the
Board ensures that the organization has the resources needed to
succeed within that budget.
The Executive Director partners with the Music Director in the
planning, implementation, and evaluation of SYSO’s programs and
services and in providing operational support to coaches, music
staff, and guest artists. The ED fosters an environment that
allows the Music Director and artistic staff to do their best work
and to provide excellent music education and experiences to all
participants in SYSO’s programs.
The Executive Director oversees SYSO’s comprehensive development
program in order to achieve revenue growth and sustainability to
support program operations, to maintain strong cash reserves, and
to build the Board-designated endowment fund. The ED
supervises the Director of Development and works with the
Development Committee of the Board to establish fundraising and
cultivation strategies that advance SYSO’s strategic
priorities. In partnership with the Board, Music Director,
Development Director, and key stakeholders, the ED works to grow
SYSO’s donor base through direct cultivation, solicitation, and
stewardship of key donors.
The Executive Director recruits, supervises, motivates, and
evaluates a high-caliber administrative staff, ensuring that the
hiring and personnel policies are consistent with SYSO’s
organization-wide commitment to diversity, equity, and
inclusion. The ED develops and implements annual
operating plans to achieve the goals and objectives identified in
SYSO’s strategic plan. The ED ensures that SYSO’s
technological infrastructure meets the operating needs of the
The Executive Director is a spokesperson and advocate for SYSO
throughout the Seattle community. The ED represents SYSO with
local and state government, school boards, community organizations,
and other arts and cultural organizations throughout the
area. The Executive Director is an active participant in the
life of the greater Seattle community.
The ideal candidate will be a visionary leader with a deep
commitment to music education, substantive experience working with
talented young people, and a proven record of success as senior
executive of a not-for-profit music or arts organization. The
candidate will have a strong working knowledge of music,
repertoire, concert production, and orchestra operation.
Experience as a performing musician, though not required, would be
The candidate will have demonstrated their commitment to the
principals of diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging and have
successful experience implementing programs that ensure DEIB and
anti-racism goals are achieved across the organization.
The successful candidate will have excellent financial
management skills with the demonstrated ability to develop, manage,
and balance annual operating budgets. The candidate will be an
enthusiastic fundraiser who has had successful experience achieving
or exceeding goals for foundation grants, annual fund, and
endowment campaigns, corporate sponsorships, and special project
The successful candidate will be an advocate for the value and
importance of music education for all young people. The
candidate will be able to speak and write persuasively about
SYSO. The candidate will have experience guiding and
mentoring young musicians.
The successful candidate will have strong interpersonal
skills. The candidate will have experience working with a
volunteer Board of Trustees and recruiting volunteer leadership.
The successful candidate will have excellent supervisory skills,
the ability to foster teamwork, and the willingness to nurture and
develop staff. The candidate will be a strategic thinker, a
superb listener, and a skilled communicator.
The successful candidate will be energetic, optimistic, and
curious. The candidate will be a mature leader with
integrity, high ethical standards, and a strong commitment to
transparency. The candidate will welcome the opportunity to
provide leadership to an outstanding youth orchestra
This is a full-time position that requires attendance at weekend
and evening rehearsals, concerts, and events.
The salary range for this position is $115,000 to $130,000
depending on qualifications and experience. SYSO offers
a benefit package that includes full healthcare coverage, paid
vacation, and a matching retirement fund contribution.
The Seattle Youth Symphony Orchestra is an equal opportunity
employer and is committed to diversity, equity, inclusion, and
access in all facets of the organization. The Search
Committee seeks to develop a diverse candidate pool and welcomes
nominations and applications from all qualified candidates
regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, age, disability,
religion, or national origin.
Applicants are asked to prepare a cover letter that describes
your specific interest in the Seattle Youth Symphony Orchestra and
outlines your qualifications for the position. Submit
with a resume and contact information for at least three
professional references. Electronic submissions are
requested. All applications will be treated as confidential
and references will not be contacted without the candidate’s
knowledge and agreement.
Please send materials to:
Seattle Youth Symphony Orchestra – Executive Director
c/o Catherine French Group
2500 Q Street NW, Suite 623
Washington, DC 20007
Please submit material in Adobe PDF or Microsoft Word