Seattle Youth Symphony Orchestra seeks Executive Director

The Seattle Youth Symphony Orchestra invites applications and nominations for the position of Executive Director, available in Summer, 2024.

Founded in 1942, the Seattle Youth Symphony Orchestra (SYSO) is one of the largest and most highly regarded youth orchestra training programs in North America. SYSO creates access to music education for more than 1800 young people each year and its membership reflects the rich diversity of the greater Seattle community. Through seven youth orchestras, three summer festival programs, a conservatory, and extensive partnerships with public schools, the Seattle Symphony, and community groups, SYSO creates music engagement opportunities for more than 35,000 young musicians, family members, audience members, and patrons each year.

SYSO is a unique and extraordinarily multifaceted organization: it is like a private school with a diverse parent and student base; an arts organization with earned income from ticket sales from concerts, events, and festivals. SYSO 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.

SYSO’s mission is to empower youth through excellence in orchestral education. SYSO’s vision is to foster an inclusive community where young musicians achieve their highest potential in a fun and supportive environment. 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 seven training orchestras: the Youth Symphony, Junior Symphony, Debut Symphony, Symphonette, Prelude String Orchestra, MY Southwest, and Cadenza. SYSO’s newest programs, MY Southeast and Cadenza, are orchestras designed for string and percussion students and are offered for a voluntary fee to applicants in middle through high school.

SYSO provides a wide variety of other opportunities for young musicians, including SYSO Summer Music Day camp, Endangered Instruments Program, and Musical Pathways Project. These programs provide equitable access to high-quality music instruction to youth from underserved neighborhoods.

Advanced students enjoy an intensive musical experience in orchestra and chamber music during their nationally recognized two-week summer program. The Marrowstone Music Festival, and the Seattle Conservatory of Music enables SYSO to encourage, guide, and prepare young musicians and composers who aspire to professional careers.

By awarding more than $100,000 in financial aid annually, SYSO helps to ensure that every talented student from ages seven to 22 can participate in the program that is right for them.

SYSO has an operating budget of $2.2 million and is governed by a Board of 15 volunteers that include alumni, professional musicians, educators, and community leaders. Additional support is provided by an active parent association. The Executive Director leads a team of nine staff members, including the Music Director, four conductors, and more than 30 music coaches.

The City

Nicknamed “The Emerald City,” Seattle is surrounded by 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 four 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, Seattle Youth Symphony Orchestra has been a part of the fabric of the city.

The Position

The Executive Director (ED) leads the organization, ensuring SYSO’s artistic, educational, organizational, and financial success. The ED reports directly to the Board of Directors and is responsible for the leadership and management of the organization’s finances and operations. The ED works with the Board and the Music Director (MD) to set strategic priorities and ensure the operational success of artistic and educational programming. The ED develops and implements an annual budget for Board approval and with the Board ensures that the organization has the resources needed to succeed within that budget.

The ED leads the planning, implementation, and evaluation of SYSO’s programs and services and in providing operational support to coaches, music staff, and guest artists. He or she fosters an environment that allows the MD and artistic staff to do their best work and to provide excellent music education and experiences to all participants in SYSO’s programs.

The ED oversees SYSO’s comprehensive development program 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 manages 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, MD, Development Director, and key stakeholders, the ED works to grow SYSO’s donor base through direct cultivation, solicitation, and stewardship of key donors.

The ED recruits, supervises, motivates, and evaluates a high-caliber administrative staff, ensuring that the hiring and HR policies are consistent with SYSO’s organization-wide commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion. He or she 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 organization.

The ED 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. He or she is an active participant in the life of the greater Seattle community.

Candidate Profile

The ideal candidate is 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 has some working knowledge of music, repertoire, concert production, and orchestra operations. Experience as a performing musician, though not required, is an asset.

The candidate has demonstrated their commitment to the principles of diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging and has successful experience implementing programs that ensure DEIB goals are achieved across the organization.

The successful candidate has experience in development, management and balancing annual operating budgets with excellent financial management skills. They are an enthusiastic fundraiser who has successful experience achieving or exceeding goals for foundation grants, an annual fund, endowment campaigns, corporate sponsorships, and special projects.

They advocate for the value and importance of music education for all young people with experience guiding and mentoring young musicians.

The successful candidate has strong interpersonal skills and experience working with a volunteer Board of Trustees and recruiting volunteer leadership. They have excellent management skills, the ability to foster teamwork, and the willingness to nurture and develop staff. They are a strategic thinker, a superb listener, and a skilled communicator.

The candidate is energetic, optimistic, and curious, a mature leader with integrity, high ethical standards, and a strong commitment to transparency. They welcome the opportunity to provide leadership to an outstanding youth orchestra program. They can speak and write persuasively about SYSO.

This is a full-time position that requires attendance at weekend and evening rehearsals, concerts, and events.


The salary range for this position is $135,000 to $150,000 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 format


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