The Kansas City Symphony Board of Directors announced that after 18 years of leadership as Chair of the Symphony Board, Shirley Bush Helzberg will step down effective June 30, 2013, and assume the title of Chair Emeritus. Helzberg will be succeeded by former American Century CEO and longtime Kansas City civic leader, Bill Lyons.
“Shirley Helzberg has been a true champion for the Symphony and the arts in Kansas City,” said Kansas City Symphony Executive Director Frank Byrne. “Under Shirley’s strong and consistent leadership for almost two decades, we have achieved remarkable growth, both artistically and organizationally.”
During Shirley’s tenure as Chair of the organization (1995-2013), the Kansas City Symphony has enjoyed many notable accomplishments:
- Dramatic increases in both earned revenues (from ticket sales) and annual charitable contributions
- Wide critical and public acclaim for the artistic growth of the Symphony and the high standard of performance both live and on recordings, as evidenced in concert and audiophile reviews, praise for a nationally broadcast PBS documentary and two Grammy award nominations, including one win
- Expanded educational programs that reach the entire metro area
- Successful transition to the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts
- Successful relocation of the Symphony offices to the Vitagraph Building
- Hiring of Michael Stern as Music Director in 2005
- Hiring of Frank Byrne as Executive Director in 2002
- Recognition of the orchestra musicians’ union, with full-time contract status
In addition, Helzberg worked to increase the Symphony’s endowment by more than $30 million and ensured the organization remained fiscally responsible through balanced budgets.
“Shirley has truly been a transformational leader for the Kansas City Symphony,” said Music Director Michael Stern. “The deep personal connection that all of us have with Shirley will remain one of the hallmarks of her extraordinary tenure. Her vision for the musical life of Kansas City and her fierce conviction that the arts matter in our lives has been at the heart of all her accomplishments. I applaud her with profound gratitude and affection.”
According to the League of American Orchestras, since the start of the 20th Century, only four individuals have led major American orchestra boards for longer than Helzberg’s 18 years with the Kansas City Symphony. In her role as Chair Emeritus, Helzberg will continue to be active and involved with the organization.
“The great cities throughout history have all had great performing arts organizations and today we can count Kansas City and the Kansas City Symphony among their ranks,” said Helzberg. “I am very pleased with where we are as an organization and take comfort in knowing that the Kansas City Symphony will continue to prosper under the committed leadership of an outstanding board guided by Bill Lyons, artistic leadership under Michael Stern and an outstanding administrative team under Frank Byrne.”
Bill Lyons is the former President and Chief Executive Officer of American Century Companies, Inc., the investment manager of a diversified family of mutual funds and institutional accounts headquartered in Kansas City, Missouri. Lyons is a director of Morningstar, Inc. (MORN), NIC, Inc. (EGOV) and The NASDAQ Stock Market. In addition to the Symphony Board, Lyons’s current civic and not-for-profit activities include membership on the boards of directors of The Nature Conservancy (Kansas Chapter), The Kansas City Art Institute and The Jacob and Ella Loose Foundation. Lyons also serves on the investment committees of The Greater Kansas City Community Foundation and The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art. In 2008, Lyons founded Terra Capital, a start-up company focusing on environmentally-responsible investments.
“It is an honor and an enormous privilege to follow in the footsteps of my friend, Shirley Helzberg, as Chair of the Symphony Board,” said Lyons. “Her passion for the Symphony and what it contributes to our community is so strong, and her 18-year legacy of achievement is amazing. I am excited about continuing the upward momentum she created.”