San Francisco Symphony’s Michael Tilson Thomas is among many Bay Area arts leaders stepping down in the not-too-distant future. (Courtesy Art Streiber)

Bay Area arts organizations see changes at the top

After years, sometimes decades, of steady leadership, major Bay Area arts organizations are undergoing big changes.

San Francisco Symphony Music Director Michael Tilson Thomas, 73, is stepping down from his post at the end of the 2019-20 season, when he’ll have completed a rare quarter-century tenure. However, as music director laureate, he’ll continue to lead the orchestra in four weeks of concerts and special projects. His successor has not been named.

Meanwhile, San Francisco Opera has not yet found a successor for music director Nicola Luisotti, who left after the 2017-18 season. Some have speculated that the job may not be filled in the near future by general director Matthew Shilvock, who became the opera’s seventh general director in 2016, following David Gockley’s 10-year tenure in The City, and 45-year career in opera management.

In October, Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra & Chorale announced retirement plans for Nicholas McGegan, who will leave after the
2019-20 season. After heading up the prominent early music ensemble for 35 years, he’ll take the music director laureate title.

In Berkeley, at Cal Performances, S. Shariq Yosufzai continues as interim executive director, a post he’s had since June and the departure of Matías Tarnopolsky, who became president and CEO of the Philadelphia Orchestra. Rob Bailis is serving as interim artistic director.

On the choral music front, as Ragazzi Boys Chorus marks its 30th anniversary, Kent L. Jue will fill a new post of general director, following the retirement of executive director David Jones and a work reduction plan for longtime artistic director Joyce Keil.

Piedmont East Bay Children’s Choir Founding Artistic Director Robert Geary is reducing hours working with the chorus after 37 years, following an overseas 2019 summer tour. Eric Tuan — accompanist, composer and conductor who began his career as a PBECC chorister — will become artistic director.

Geary, a co-founder of the professional a cappella group Volti, continues to lead that ensemble in its 40th season as well as head up the San Francisco Choral Society in its 24th season.

After 30 years of conducting the 80-member, 55-year-old choral group Schola Cantorum Silicon Valley, music director Gregory Wait passes the baton following this season. He’ll conclude in May 2019 at Stanford Memorial Church, leading his favorite piece, Brahms’ “A German Requiem.”

San Francisco Ballet Executive Director Glenn McCoy will retire at the end of the 2019 season, following three decades of leadership in various posts with The City’s most established dance company.

The theater community also is experiencing change: Robert Kelley will leave TheatreWorks Silicon Valley in 2020 after 50 years of heading the regional theater he transformed into an operation with a national reputation for developing new work.

In the East Bay, California Shakespeare Theater Managing Director Susie Falk is stepping down at the end of 2018, concluding 14 years with the company.

Aurora Theatre Company Artistic Director Tom Ross is leaving his job following the 2018–19 season after 15 years in the post and 27 years with the Berkeley company he helped establish.

After her 25-year tenure, American Conservatory Theater Artistic Director Carey Perloff recently was succeeded by Pam MacKinnon as artistic director. Jennifer Bielstein became executive director, succeeding interim director Peter Pastreich (whose past leadership positions included the San Francisco Symphony, 1978­–1999 and Philharmonia Baroque, 2009–2011).

In 2019, Tony Taccone will conclude a 33-year tenure in leadership posts at Berkeley Repertory Theatre; his final show will be a premiere musical “Kiss My Aztec!” co-written by John Leguizamo. Johanna Pfaelzer has been named his successor as artistic director.

There’s new leadership at the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco. Thomas P. Campbell, director of Metropolitan Museum of Art from 2009-17, follows Max Hollein as director and chief executive officer. On the job since Nov. 1, he’s overseeing a staff of more than 500 in the de Young museum and Legion of Honor’s curatorial and educational programs.

Renny Pritikin, chief curator at The Contemporary Jewish Museum since 2014, announced that he will retire at the end of December.

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