Symphony San Jose Announces New General Manager

Symphony San Jose has announced a new general manager, Robert Massey — a classical music executive with 25 years of experience — to succeed founding president Andrew Bales.

Bales spearheaded the creation of what was then called Symphony Silicon Valley from the ashes of the San Jose Symphony, which had dissolved in bankruptcy. Now, 20 years later, it will be up to Massey to keep classical music relevant to San Jose in an atmosphere crowded with entertainment options and the ever-present shadow of world-class arts organizations in San Francisco that tend to suck a lot of attention (and philanthropic money).

Robert Massey, who was named the new general manager of Symphony San Jose on May 9, 2022. (Photo courtesy of Symphony San Jose)

But that may be the kind of challenge Massey is well-suited to, having spearheaded three multimillion-dollar fundraising campaigns and turned the fortunes of the symphonies in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and Jacksonville, Florida, where he helped increase both attendance and fundraising. His final stint, however, was as CEO of the Louisville Orchestra, a job that appears to have been a poor choice and only lasted a year until just before the pandemic hit in 2020.

Symphony San Jose Chairman of the Board, Dick Conniff, said the board is excited to bring Massey into the fold. “Highly respected across the country with a rich history of musical expertise, he is the perfect leader to bring us together and strengthen our connection and impact in the community,” he said.

He should certainly be able to rely on the framework created by Bales, who announced his retirement in September. This included innovations like free outdoor pop concerts in the summer, movie concerts, and special events like the upcoming four “Dragon Ball Z” concerts on Memorial Day weekend where cosplay among anime fans will be encouraged.

RETURN EVENING FOR CITY LIGHTS: Flapper dresses abounded Saturday night at the City Lights Theater Company’s fundraising gala — a Roaring Twenties-themed affair at San Jose’s Hearts and Minds Activity Center that also celebrated executive artistic director Lisa’s 20th birthday Briefcase at the bar.

“It has been such a privilege for me to serve City Lights and the City of San Jose. City Lights has been a bit of a love affair for me,” said Mallette, who was surprised by a commendation from San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo. “I have never been more proud of our staff and board than during this global pandemic. We have come together like I have never seen a group of people come together.

Lisa Mallette, Executive Artistic Director of City Lights Theater Company, speaks to the audience at the company's fundraising dinner at the Hearts & Minds Activity Center in San Jose on May 7, 2022. (Sal Pizarro/Bay Area News Group)
Lisa Mallette, Executive Artistic Director of City Lights Theater Company, speaks to the audience at the company’s fundraising dinner at the Hearts & Minds Activity Center in San Jose on May 7, 2022. (Sal Pizarro/Bay Area News Group)

They also did a good job pre-pandemic, upping the budget by $172,000 when Mallette hit $1.2 million — and finishing in the black for 16 seasons. Mallette herself has done 20 shows out of the 117 productions she has overseen over the past two decades.

The numbers are still being worked out, but I’ve been told this was City Lights’ most successful fundraiser to date. There’s not much time for congratulations, though: City Lights opens its next show, “Waiting for Next,” on May 19, then Mallette returns to direct the summertime musical, “Fun Home.” , based on Alison Bechdel. acclaimed graphic novel. Visit for more details.

MEMORIAL CONCERT: Internationally acclaimed clarinetist Jon Manasse will join the San Jose Wind Symphony in paying tribute on May 15 to its founding conductor, Darrell Johnson, who passed away in May 2021 at the age of 90. Johnson founded the band in 1957 and led it for 44 years before passing the bandleader’s baton to Edward C. Harris, who remains on the podium 20 seasons later.

The program for “Remembering Darrell,” a 15-hour concert at the McAfee Center in Saratoga, will feature some of the maestro’s favorites, including the overture to “Candide,” by Leonard Bernstein, and “Shenandoah,” arranged by Frank Ticheli. Johnson was also a clarinetist, so it’s only fitting to have Manasse on stage performing Carl Maria von Weber’s ‘Concerto No. 1 in F Minor for Clarinet’.

Masks and proof of vaccination will be required and tickets will not be sold at the door. Get tickets or more details at

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