Organization: Chicago Symphony Orchestra Association

Location: Chicago, IL

Express Interest!

About Chicago Symphony Orchestra:

The Chicago Symphony Orchestra (“CSO”) is consistently hailed as one of the greatest orchestras in the world. Led by renowned Italian conductor Riccardo Muti since 2010, the CSO is working to fulfill his vision for the Orchestra—to deepen its engagement with the Chicago community, to nurture the legacy of the CSO while supporting a new generation of musicians, and to collaborate with visionary artists. Muti is considered one of the preeminent conductors of our day.

Jeff Alexander became the President of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra Association in January of 2015. He has worked as a leader in the arts management field for 36 years including 14 years as President and CEO of the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra, and 16 years with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra including 12 as General Manager.

Founded in 1891 by its first music director, Theodore Thomas, the CSO’s other illustrious music directors include Frederick Stock, Désiré Defauw, Artur Rodzinski, Rafael Kubelík, Fritz Reiner, Jean Martinon, Sir Georg Solti, and Daniel Barenboim. From 2006 to 2010, Bernard Haitink served as principal conductor. Pierre Boulez was appointed principal guest conductor in 1995 and was named Helen Regenstein Conductor Emeritus in 2006. Celebrated cellist Yo-Yo Ma was appointed the CSO’s Judson and Joyce Green Creative Consultant in 2010. Samuel Adams and Elizabeth Ogonek were appointed the CSO’s Mead Composers-in-Residence in 2015.

The renowned musicians of the CSO command a vast repertoire that spans from Baroque to new music. They annually perform more than 150 concerts, most at Symphony Center in Chicago, and, since 1936, in the summer at the Ravinia Festival. The CSO also tours nationally and internationally on an annual basis. Since its first tour to Canada in 1892, the Orchestra has performed in 29 countries on five continents during 59 international tours. Whether at home or on tour, tickets to CSO concerts are always in high demand and frequently sold out.

Since 1916, recording has been significant in establishing the Orchestra’s international reputation, with recordings by the CSO earning a total of 62 Grammy awards. In 2007, the CSO launched an independent label, CSO Resound, on which it has released 17 recordings; the most recent is with Muti in September 2016. The 2010 release of Verdi’s Messa da Requiem—Muti’s first recording with the CSO—was recognized with two Grammy awards.

Listeners and fans around the world can hear the CSO in weekly airings of the CSO Radio Broadcast Series, which is syndicated on the WFMT Radio Network and online at

Annually, the CSO engages more than 200,000 people of diverse ages, incomes and backgrounds through the innovative programs of the Negaunee Music Institute at the CSO. These include concerts for children, families and school groups; curricula and programs for teachers and community groups; and low-cost and free rehearsals and performances, including a free annual CSO concert led by Muti. The Institute also manages the Civic Orchestra of Chicago, the only pre-professional training ensemble of its kind affiliated with a major American orchestra.

The parent organization for the CSO is the Chicago Symphony Orchestra Association (CSOA), which also includes the acclaimed Chicago Symphony Chorus, directed by Duain Wolfe. Under the banner of its presentation series, entitled Symphony Center Presents, the CSOA annually presents dozens of prestigious guest artists and ensembles from a variety of musical genres— classical, jazz, pop, world, and contemporary. The CSOA owns and operates Symphony Center which includes Orchestra Hall at 220 South Michigan Avenue, its support buildings, and the CSOA administration building at 67 East Adams Street.

A nonprofit charitable organization, the CSOA has an annual operating budget of $74M and over 500 full and part-time employees. It is governed by a voluntary Board of Trustees made up of leaders from the private, public and nonprofit sectors.  Thousands of patrons, volunteers, and donors—corporations, foundations, government agencies and individuals—support the CSOA each year. Bank of America is the International Tour Sponsor of the CSO. The CSO’s Zell Music Director position is endowed in perpetuity by a generous gift from the Zell Family Foundation. The Negaunee Foundation provides generous support in perpetuity for the work of the Negaunee Music Institute.

To learn more about the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, please go to

The Opportunity:

Reporting to the President, the Vice President / Chief Financial Officer (“VP/CFO”) will be an integral partner in the next chapter of the CSOA’s success. The VP/CFO is responsible for the strategic and tactical management of the general areas of finance, investments and information technology through three direct reports and 12 associated staff members. The VP/CFO also serves as Assistant Treasurer, an officer of the Association.

The CFO has day-to-day responsibility for planning, implementing, managing and controlling all financially related activities of the institution. Direct responsibilities include accounting, finance, forecasting and expense planning, financing of capital improvements, new business analysis as well as pension, bond and endowment management. The VP/CFO serves as the principal financial officer of the organization, reporting regularly to the Board of Directors and serving as the management liaison to the Finance, Audit, Pension Trust and Investment Committees.

As a member of the senior management team, the VP/CFO will partner with the other CSO leaders in budgeting, financial monitoring and analysis. As the team pursues new business plans in the future, the VP/CFO will be integrally involved in strategic and operational discussions and decisions.

Specific responsibilities of the VP/CFO will include the following:

  • Oversee all financial planning, budgeting, and forecasting, including the preparation of annual operating and capital budgets and forecasts, long-range financial projections, and capital structure alternatives;
  • Present financial information to various constituencies, including the Finance Committee, Executive Committee and Board of Trustees;
  • Serve as staff liaison with the Finance, Investment, Audit and Bond Oversight Committees and with the Musician Pension Trust and Pension Committee;
  • Oversee the Controller’s management of the CSOA’s accounting operation, including all financial accounting and reporting, compliance with accounting standards, accounts payable and receivable functions, cash management, payroll, taxation issues and tax returns, preparation of required audits, and interface with external auditors;
  • Coordinate prudent management of the CSOA’s investment assets through the operation of the Investment Committee and its investment consultant. The investment consultant develops and updates investment policies and asset allocation strategies, identifies, selects, and monitors investment managers, performs due diligence of such managers, and reports quarterly on the investment performance of the Endowment Fund, Capital Campaign Assets, the Musicians’ Pension Fund and the Staff Pension Fund;
  • Oversee the Director of Information Systems and Support’s planning and management of the CSOA’s information systems, including the enterprise applications, network architecture and desktop and mobile computing environment provided to CSOA users to maximize their productivity;
  • Oversee coordination with the Marketing Department to ensure that the outward-facing website platform and inward-facing enterprise systems are fully integrated for maximum effectiveness;
  • Oversee all bank, investment banking, and rating agency relationships for the debt portfolio, liquidity facilities, credit line, cash management, credit card, and purchasing card arrangements;
  • Oversee the negotiation and procurement of commercial insurance policies for the CSOA;
  • Serve as liaison to the CSOA’s legal counsel on corporate, investment, and pension-related legal issues affecting the CSOA;
  • Serve as a member of the CSOA’s negotiating team in the renewal of the collective bargaining agreement with the Musicians Committee. Assist with other negotiations, as needed;
  • Represent the CSOA in business dealings with external entities, including banks, creditors, auditors, law firms, investment managers, insurance brokers and insurers, actuaries, financial advisers, etc.;
  • Serve as Plan Sponsor and Plan administrator for the Musician and Staff Defined Benefit Pension Plans, and the Staff 403b Plan. Work with actuarial firm and board committees to manage retirement plans; establish appropriate funding strategy recommendations;
  • Review and/or assist others in review of contracts for goods and services required by the CSOA prior to execution;
  • Oversee the reporting of financial and statistical information to the League of American Orchestras, ASCAP, BMI, foundations, government agencies, and other granting authorities;
  • Mentor, develop and manage direct reports through ongoing evaluation and training; and
  • Other duties as appropriate.

Candidate Profile:

The VP/CFO will be a passionate advocate for the mission of CSO with an appreciation of its traditions and the belief in its future. A proven leader and strong financial executive with 15+ years of experience, the VP/CFO will be recognized as having the highest standard for financial integrity and professionalism. S/he will also have a successful track record of leading financial and other teams that have contributed to the overall success of the organization during periods of change. S/he will have a history of client-driven service within former organizations and an approach of problem-solving and collaborative partnerships with colleagues.

The VP/CFO will possess the following skills, qualities and characteristics:

Finance Expertise & Business Acumen

The VP/CFO will have deep experience running a 21st century financial department, allowing the senior leadership and Trustees to be assured that CSOA’s financial oversight is of the highest caliber. S/he must demonstrate a high level of intellectual horsepower and a curious, collaborative, strategic mindset. S/he must be able to ‘deep dive’ into the details of the business aspects of the institution while staying focused on the big picture. S/he is able to conceptualize and analyze both problems and solutions in a constructive, collaborative manner geared towards helping the entire organization improve performance. S/he must possess unquestioned integrity, ethics and values; a leader who can be trusted without reservation.

Ability to Lead Through Change

The VP/CFO will help establish a course of action to achieve the new strategic and business plans of CSOA, working collaboratively with the senior leadership, staff and Trustees. S/he will understand the need to learn the history and culture of CSO and CSOA, and appreciate the complexities it faces in the 21st century before making recommendations. S/he will have the ability to offer creative, yet practical ideas to achieve the strategic direction of CSOA, doing so with a deep understanding and commitment to the traditions and nuances of the organization. To achieve desired results and support CSOA’s strategic objectives, the VP/CFO will have the skills to effectively lead and develop the finance team. An ability to leverage the expertise of the finance staff and hone the organizational systems and processes of the finance team will be key for success. S/he will understand and deal with complexities with ease and be able to creatively overcome obstacles to achieve the organization’s goals.

Building Relationships and Using Influence

The successful candidate must establish rapport and cultivate relationships across all levels of the organization and empower a diverse staff and external constituents to deliver results. This includes CSOA department heads, musicians and staff, Board of Trustees and a broad range of external constituents. S/he must be comfortable presenting financial information to, and developing strong relationships with, organizational leadership and the Board of Directors. A leader that exudes an ‘executive presence’, s/he must be highly articulate and a deft communicator who is able to convey CSOA’s successes and opportunities with passion and intensity in written and verbal formats in both formal and informal situations. This individual will foster trust and collaboration among team members and will possess the ability to manage through change with flexibility and poise.

Passion for the Mission

The VP/CFO must have a passion for the mission of the CSO and an appreciation of the performing arts. Fundamentally, this executive will understand and embrace that the finance functions are dedicated to serving the overall mission of the institution. S/he will have the ability and desire to inspire those around him/her to work together to support the mission during a challenging, yet exciting time. This individual must possess a deep appreciation for the business challenges that nonprofits face, specifically performing arts institutions, and an excitement to be part of a team that is focused on strategically identifying solutions.

The VP/CFO will have an undergraduate degree in finance, accounting or business. An MBA and/or CPA is strongly preferred.

While a working knowledge of 501c(3) structure and operations would be helpful, it is not necessary for the VP/CFO to have worked professionally within the nonprofit field. Correspondingly, while experience in multiple-union environments and performing arts is a plus, it is not required.


Alison P. Ranney, Anne B. McCarthy and Anny K. Chou of Koya Leadership Partners have been exclusively retained for this search. To express your interest in this role please email Alison, Anne and Anny directly at All inquiries and discussions will be considered strictly confidential.

About Koya Leadership Partners:

Koya Leadership Partners is a national retained executive search and human capital consulting firm that works exclusively with nonprofits and social enterprises. We deliver measurable results, finding exceptionally talented people who truly fit the unique culture of our client organizations and ensuring that organizations have the resources and strategies to support them. For more information about Koya Leadership Partners, visit