Executive Director, Chattanooga Symphony & Opera

The Chattanooga Symphony & Opera invites applications and nominations for the position of Executive Director, available in January, 2022.


The Chattanooga Symphony & Opera (CSO) is the largest arts employer and one of the only fully professional arts organizations in the region. Performing a variety of classical, pops, chamber, ensemble, youth orchestra, and special concerts each season, the CSO is highly regarded in the community as a leader in music and music education.

The Chattanooga Symphony & Opera Association (CSO) was established in 1985, the result of a coming together of the Chattanooga Symphony, which had its first season in 1933, and the Chattanooga Opera, which mounted its first production in 1943. The merger of the two organizations was the first of its kind in the country.  The CSO will celebrate the 90th Anniversary of the Chattanooga Symphony during the 2022-2023 Season.

The mission of the Chattanooga Symphony & Opera is “to inspire, engage, and enrich the greater Chattanooga community through music and music education.”  A strong advocate for music and orchestras, the CSO believes that live orchestral music and education programs build connections across generations, inspire individuals, and transform the Chattanooga community into a more vibrant, exciting place to live.  Each season from September to May, the CSO typically performs its main concert series at the Tivoli Theatre, a historic 1750-seat beaux-arts concert hall often called “The Jewel of the South.”  As planned renovations of the Tivoli are set to begin in 2022, the CSO will perform its main concert series and special concerts at the Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Auditorium for the 2021/22 and 2022/23 seasons. Through the years, Chattanooga audiences have enjoyed internationally acclaimed artists performing both classical and popular music in repertoire ranging from baroque to contemporary at the Tivoli and throughout the area.

The CSO gives performances in a variety of venues and collaborates with dozens of community partners including schools, hospitals, libraries, and civic organizations.  The CSO’s music education programs serve students of all ages, provide resources to area music teachers, and welcome adult learners. The Chattanooga Symphony & Opera Youth Orchestra provides opportunities for young musicians to perform under the direction of professional conductors, attend sectional workshops with members of the CSO Orchestra, compete for scholarships, perform solo and ensemble work, and build relationships with other fine young musicians across the greater Chattanooga area. Currently there are four orchestras in the CSO Youth Orchestra program: the Symphony, the Philharmonic, the Etude, and the Prelude.

Kayoko Dan has led the CSO as Music Director and Conductor since the 2011/2012 Season. She succeeded Bob Bernhardt who, after a 19-year tenure as Music Director, was named Music Director Emeritus.  Bernhardt continues his relationship with the CSO as Principal Pops Conductor.

The Chattanooga Symphony and Opera is governed by a 30-member board of community leaders.  The Orchestra has an operating budget of $2.5 million and an endowment of $2.5 million, which it holds on its own, and an additional $3 million endowment held through ArtsBuild, Chattanooga’s community fund for the arts. The CSO is managed by a ten-person administrative staff of full- and part-time employees.  A cadre of dedicated volunteers provide invaluable support to CSO’s programs and activities throughout the year.  Samantha Teter, who joined the CSO in 2012 and has been Executive Director since 2016, recently announced that she will step down at the end of 2021.

The Opportunity

The next Executive Director will join the Chattanooga Symphony & Opera as the organization completes its current three-year strategic plan, returns to live full-orchestra concert performances, signs a new three-year collective bargaining agreement with musicians, and approaches the 90th Anniversary of the Chattanooga Symphony.  The ED will take the lead in developing the next multi-year plan to guide the Symphony’s growth in a post-pandemic environment, ensure its financial sustainability, and build a more equitable, diverse, inclusive, and accessible organization.  The ED will have the opportunity to explore new initiatives for live and digital programming and to revisit the role of opera in expanding the reach of the CSO throughout the region.

The next Executive Director will become part of a vibrant community tucked between the mountains in Southeast Tennessee along the Tennessee River midway between Nashville and Atlanta.  With a metropolitan area population of more than 500,000, Chattanooga is regularly listed among the very best places to live in the United States because of its natural beauty, quality of life, accessibility, and affordability.  The next Executive Director will find a welcoming city for people of all ages, lifestyles, and interests.

The Position

The Executive Director is the chief administrative officer of the Chattanooga Symphony & Opera and reports to the Board of Directors through the President.  The Executive Director provides leadership and vision to ensure the CSO’s organizational, financial, and artistic success.  The ED manages the organization’s human and financial resources to serve a diverse and ever-expanding audience and to achieve and exceed goals for earned and contributed income.

The ED is responsible and accountable for all aspects of the Orchestra’s operations, including: strategic planning; budgeting and financial management; artistic administration; contract negotiations and labor relations; marketing and public relations; fundraising; human resource management; education; and community engagement.  The Executive Director ensures that the CSO fulfills its commitment to equity, diversity, inclusion, and access in all policies, programs, and activities both internal and external.

The Executive Director facilitates and supports the work of the Board and its committees, and ensures that the Board and its committees have timely and accurate information for decision-making. The ED provides support and impetus to the fundraising efforts of the Board.  The ED attracts, supervises, motivates, evaluates and provides leadership to the administrative staff, and maintains a professional work environment that allows the Music Director, musicians of the orchestra, and guest artists to do their best work.

The Executive Director is the chief spokesperson for the Chattanooga Symphony & Opera in the community. The ED establishes and maintains productive working relationships with other arts, educational, and community organizations in the area and seeks opportunities for partnerships that support the mission and goals of the Chattanooga Symphony & Opera.  The Executive Director is an active member of the Chattanooga community.

Candidate Profile

The successful candidate will be an outstanding leader with at least five years’ progressive experience in orchestra or performing arts management.  The candidate will combine a passion for music with a highly developed knowledge of symphony orchestras, artistic administration, fundraising, financial management, audience development, and orchestra operations.   

The successful candidate will be a strategic thinker with the ability to inspire and align all stakeholders around an exciting vision for the organization’s growth and development. The candidate will be an enthusiastic fundraiser with demonstrated skills in the identification, cultivation, and solicitation of donors, and stewardship of gifts. The candidate will have track record for audience development for both classical and pops concerts; the candidate will have strong communication, marketing, digital, and social media skills.  

The successful candidate will be a collaborator and a consensus builder. The candidate will have the demonstrated ability to work effectively with a music director, orchestra musicians, and other creative artists in a collective bargaining environment. The candidate will have the ability to inspire and motivate Board, staff, and volunteers to realize the Chattanooga Symphony & Opera’s vision and achieve their shared goals.

The successful candidate will be a person of integrity and high ethical standards.  The candidate will demonstrate a strong personal commitment to the principals of equity, inclusion, and access.  The candidate will be imaginative, curious, flexible, and resilient.  The successful candidate will welcome the opportunity to be an active part of the vibrant Chattanooga community.


The compensation range for this position is $85,000 to $105,000 per year, depending on qualifications and experience.  The CSO offers a competitive benefits package.


The Chattanooga Symphony & Opera is committed to diversity, equity, and inclusion in all facets of the organization and welcomes applications from all qualified candidate regardless of age, race, gender, sexual orientation, disability, religion, or national origin.

Please send a cover letter outlining your specific interest in the Chattanooga Symphony & Opera and your qualifications for this position. Include a resumé, salary requirements, and contact information for at least three references. Electronic submissions are requested.  All applications will be treated as confidential and references will not be called without the candidate’s prior knowledge and agreement.   

Please send materials to:


Chattanooga Symphony & Opera

c/o Catherine French Group

2500 Q Street NW, Suite 623

Washington, DC  20007


Please submit material in Adobe PDF or Microsoft Word format, only