Board Leadership Change For The Kansas City Symphony | KCUR

Board Leadership Change For The Kansas City Symphony

May 21, 2013

After nearly 20 years as the chairwoman of the Kansas City Symphony's board, arts patron Shirley Helzberg is stepping down. Bill Lyons, civic leader and former CEO of American Century Companies, Inc., succeeds Helzberg on July 1.

Shirley Helzberg will maintain a leadership role in the arts community - but with different organizations. On May 1, Helzberg was named chair of the board of trustees of the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art. And, as of June 30, her new position with the Kansas City Symphony's board will be Chair Emeritus.

According to a Symphony release, "only four individuals have led major American orchestra boards" for longer than Shirley Helzberg's tenure as board chair from 1995 to 2013.

The Symphony characterizes Helzberg's leadership as a time of "notable accomplishments," including increased earned revenue and charitable contributions, "wide critical and public acclaim for the artistic growth" of the orchestra, and expanded educational programming.

It also marked a period of new staffing and transitions. The Symphony is one of the resident companies of the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts, which opened in September 2011, and performances take place in Helzberg Hall (named for Shirley and her husband, Barnett C. Helzberg Jr.). The organization moved its offices to the nearby Vitagraph Building, which was renovated by Helzberg. Music director Michael Stern was hired in 2005, and executive director Frank Byrne was hired in 2002.

"Shirley has truly been a transformational leader for the Kansas City Symphony," said music director Michael Stern in a statement. "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."

The Symphony's new board chair Bill Lyons, who's served on the board for five years, called it "an honor and an enormous privilege to follow in the footsteps" of Helzberg.

Lyons was president and CEO of American Century Companies, Inc. until his retirement in 2007. He founded Terra Capital, a sustainable investing start-up, in 2008.  Lyons also serves on the boards of directors of other organizations, including the Kansas City Art Institute.