MSO’s new executive director brings vision
Jenny Mann’s passion and career focus in music management, fundraising, performance and education make her the perfect pick to lead the Mississippi Symphony Orchestra forward as its incoming president and executive director, MSO leaders say.
Mann, executive director of the Tuscaloosa Symphony since 2014 and its principal bassoonist since 2006, starts with MSO Jan. 1, filling the position that Michael Beattie held for almost 17 years. Beattie, who steered MSO to new heights, retires this year.
“She comes into a robust organization that Michael has built for us,” said Hugh Parker, chair of the MSO search committee. The five-month national search engaged the m/Oppenheim search firm, resulting in 1,400 contacts, 144 applicants, eight who were considered by MSO and two finalists. Mann’s experience, strengths and achievements stood out.
“Performance and education are two areas very close to my heart,” Mann said, and that’s what drew her to the job. “This is the ideal blending of both my chosen fields.”
In addition to her Tuscaloosa Symphony roles, Mann is associate professor of bassoon and music management, and area coordinator for the arts administration degree at the University of Alabama. Partnerships and collaborations she led resulted in arts integration programs for area educators and professional artistic experiences for collegiate musicians. Mann authored the “Teaching Woodwinds: Bassoon” textbook, adopted by more than 15 colleges and universities, and she recorded three albums with the renowned Cavell Trio.
She was born in Minneapolis-Saint Paul, and grew up in Texas. Mann’s education includes a bachelor’s degree in music education from Baylor University, and master’s and doctorate degrees in music from the University of Texas at Austin. She also holds a CFRE (Certified Fund Raising Executive) designation, a hallmark for good stewardship in fundraising.
“She fully understands our focus on live symphonic music, education and financial soundness,” Parker said, praising her “tremendous” background.
“The qualifications she brings to the table felt like very natural fits for us,” MSO Board Chairman Jack Allin said. “Jenny is a really great listener, and that is something we need to do a lot in this community, as it continues to evolve and grow. We need somebody who is able to keep an ear to the ground, and listen to those voices in this community.
“I think that has a lot to do with keeping classical and symphonic music relevant in a community in the Deep South in the 21st century,” Allin said.
“ Jenny’s experience, visionary perspectives and passion clearly align with where the symphony’s future lies,” said Delores Bolden Stamps, MSO board member. That includes ways education can expand to increase inclusivity and the symphony’s purpose can extend beyond the stage. “She also talked about the importance of the symphony being a part of and reflective of the community where it exists,” said Stamps. “She was indeed the best candidate.”
Mann’s track record in building community bridges and partnerships are key strengths. She’s eager to work with the MSO board and musicians to re-imagine what the Jackson, Mississippi-based orchestra can be, and find ways to serve the entire state.
“They really want to be a trailblazer as an arts institution in the state,” Mann said. “I believe the potential is absolutely there.”