Detroit Symphony elevates Erik Ronmark, 44, to president and CEO
Erik Ronmark, a longtime resident of the Orchestra Hall, has been named President and CEO of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, making it the organization’s first new executive leader in 17 years.
Ronmark, now Vice President and General Manager of the DSO, will replace Anne Parsons, the longtime president who announced her upcoming resignation in April. Ronmark will take on the role on March 7th, with Parsons staying on board as President Emeritus through November.
Ronmark’s appointment was announced to musicians and staff on Wednesday evening during the DSO’s annual general meeting. His selection was approved by the Board of Directors in November following a unanimous recommendation from a DSO Search Committee, which considered more than 180 candidates from around the world.
The 44-year-old brings a mixture of professional touch and accessible cordiality and is very popular throughout the organization. Unlike many new executives at major art institutions, he will assume the top role with familiarity and built-in drive: Ronmark has spent practically his entire career at the DSO, having started as a part-time assistant in the music library in 2005. He was named general manager eight years ago and vice president three years later.
“One of the reasons I was really interested is the culture we have here. The musicians, the staff and the board are just great people and we have the most passionate supporters, ”said Ronmark. “It’s very attractive that I don’t have to learn people’s names. It definitely feels like I can go out on the street while running. “
In Ronmark, the DSO is also getting a director who spans the artistic and executive worlds. The classically trained native Swede is a saxophonist whose own musical ventures include the New Music Detroit collective. He has degrees in fine arts and musical performance from Northern State University and Bowling Green State University and a PhD in musicology from the University of Michigan.
He played a pivotal role in hiring music director Jader Bignamini in 2020 after leading a two-year search, quickly discovering a close affinity and sharing creative sensibility with the young Italian conductor. Together, the two have already started to shape their musical vision for the DSO, starting with the current 2021-22 season and the presentation of various composers, new works and community-based programs alongside the orchestra’s traditional repertoire.
“I am really very happy and proud to continue to work side by side with Erik,” said Bignamini. “He’s incredibly skilled, so smart and hardworking. We work so well together and have lots of ideas for our future. He knows the business, but he also knows the music and musician culture. I am so happy to have it. I was hoping it would happen, and now we have it. “
Ronmark said his relationship with Bignamini will be fundamental to his work as DSO President – “supporting his vision of connecting him to this community and taking this orchestra to the next level”.
Almost a year ago, a committee was formed to find a replacement for Parsons, made up of board members, staff and musicians and supported by the Isaacson Miller company. Led by CEO Mark Davidoff and Director Emeritus Chacona Baugh, the group agreed on several key qualities they expected in the new leader, including humility and “world-class” relationship skills, Davidoff said.
“It also had to be someone who understands the human dimension of our work – from artistic excellence to education to our service to the community,” said Davidoff. “Erik is someone who is already anchored in the orchestra. He understands our commitment to (diversity, equity and inclusion), to innovation and excellence. He’s so prepared for that. “
More:DSO’s Jader Bignamini led through the pandemic – now he’s ready to shape Detroit
More:Anne Parsons, longtime president of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, will retire in 2022
The initial pool of over 180 prospects was eventually reduced to nine who were interviewed for a “very intense two days” at the Detroit Athletic Club, Davidoff said. Those candidates were limited to three, with Ronmark becoming the search team’s unanimous choice. It was approved by the DSO board on November 18th.
While at DSO, Ronmark worked closely with the widely respected Parsons to help drive digital initiatives – including a groundbreaking foray into live concert webcasts – and diversity efforts in both musical and institutional settings.
“I’ve been fortunate enough to be next to a great leader for almost 17 years,” he said. “It was great to work with her and create all these things that really changed the way the DSO works. We have a wonderful orchestra on this stage, but we do so much more. “
Davidoff applauded Parsons for leading the DSO into a new era and a burst of fresh, youthful energy in the “dynamic duo” Bignamini and Ronmark.
“We have prepared to attract and retain two of the greatest, youngest and most inspiring talent in Jader and Erik – it is no accident,” he said. “Landing one of these positions is incredibly difficult. We have gained two next-generation leaders who have the closest relationships. There is nothing but on top of it. “
For Ronmark, who is married to DSO violinist Adrienne Ronmark, the connection with the Detroit Symphony extends well beyond his time at the organization: he grew up in Sundsvall, Sweden, three hours north of Stockholm, and listened to DSO recordings, including the by compatriot Sixten Ehrling, chief conductor of the DSO in the 1960s and early 1970s.
“I would never have dreamed of having the chance to lead the organization,” he said. “It was interesting to work my way up in the organization. It has given me a unique perspective on different sides of the business – not just what musicians do on stage every day, but also the great people who work behind the scenes and all the work we do in the community. When you see that, it’s hard not to fall in love and want to lead her. “
Contact Brian McCollum, the Detroit Free Press music writer: 313-223-4450 or [email protected]