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Charlotte Symphony makes history, names a Black conductor as its new music director

CHARLOTTE — The Charlotte Symphony made history by naming a Black conductor as its new music director Tuesday, The Charlotte Observer reported.

Kwamé Ryan, 53, was born in Canada and grew up on the Caribbean island of Trinidad, according to the Charlotte Symphony’s website.

“I think it’s wonderful that this orchestra that serves the diverse communities of Charlotte, Mecklenburg, and beyond should be one of the first U.S. orchestras to take a pioneering step like this,” Ryan told The Observer.

He studied Musicology at Cambridge University and trained in conducting under the guidance of conductor Peter Eötvös. An active guest conductor, Ryan has led orchestras across the United States, U.K., and Germany, the Charlotte Symphony’s website stated.

In the fall of 2023, Ryan conducted the world premiere of Jake Heggie’s Intelligence at Houston Grand Opera, and in 2024, he made his debut with Opera Theatre of St. Louis and the New York Philharmonic.

The Music Director Search Committee, comprised of Charlotte Symphony musicians, staff, and members of the board of directors, unanimously selected Ryan.

“As a dynamic leader who understands the full potential of the relationship between an orchestra and its community,” said President and CEO David Fisk. “Kwamé will undoubtedly deepen the Charlotte Symphony’s service to Charlotte and the region, and, with his passion for music education, bring extraordinary, powerful music-making to a wider audience of all ages.”

Ryan will begin his new role under a four-year contract in the orchestra’s 2024-25 season, its 93rd.

He succeeds Christopher Warren-Green, the Englishman who ended his 12-year tenure with the orchestra after the 2021-22 season.

With 65 full-time professional musicians, the Charlotte Symphony is the oldest operating symphony orchestra in the Carolinas.


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