Farewell, Trey Devey, and thank you!

Trey Devey

Trey Devey

By Thom Mariner

Later this month, Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra president and CEO Trey Devey will leave his post to head the Interlochen Center for the Arts in northern Michigan. The CSO is currently searching for his replacement.

When Trey arrived in Cincinnati in 2009 to become CEO of the Cincinnati Symphony, his first task was to negotiate a sizable pay reduction with his players. “Welcome to the Queen City, Trey.”

The amazing thing is that he and his players did come to an agreement, one that put the CSO on comparatively sound financial footing. Good for the organization, and the players … in the long run.

That’s what Trey understands – the long run – that you have to stock up for generations, to survive the lean years. The unprecedented $85 million bequest by Louise Nippert was so essential to the long-term stability of an orchestra that fights well above its weight class.

Thank Trey Devey for that. And for eight successive years of balanced budgets that followed.

But his achievements have not been limited to the realm of fundraising and endowments.

Trey brought his Boston Consulting Group experience to bear in refining the CSO sales, communications and marketing departments. Even given the chip-shot programming of Gershwin faves and Ravel in March, how many orchestras sold out 2,400 seats three nights in one week this past month? In a mid-size U.S. city? In a temporary venue?

Consider also his impact in bridging the gap between music directors Paavo Järvi and Louis Langrée, helping implement a team of “co-creative directors” – diverse thought leaders in classical music. This was the most compelling and inventive orchestral programming I have ever seen, and attendance grew, even without a music director. Why? Because Trey understands the emerging American audience and the range of  programming that might attract them. Plus, the need not to alienate the subscriber base. It was a brilliant solution channeled through respected names in the industry. A model worth emulating.

And then there’s the strategic foresight of the Taft Theatre transformation, the leadership in driving essential changes to Music Hall … the list goes on.

No doubt many staff and board members contributed to all of these efforts. But since the buck always stops at the CEO’s desk when things go awry, so should he (in this case) receive credit where credit is due, especially as he makes his departure.

In parting, let me simply say, thank you, Trey. You managed an under-appreciated job with dignity and resolve. You established a firm foundation. And you infused this organization with a spirit of pride and can-do that will carry it into the future. What more could we ask?

Thanks for the countless sleepless nights, struggling to balance the myriad forces pushing their own agendas. Thanks for maintaining ours as one of only 15 full-time, 52-week orchestras in the country. Sincerest best wishes as you move into this next life phase.

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