OAKLAND -- East Bay Performing Arts has named Steven Payne as its new executive director who will join the three recently re-christened Oakland-based organizations under their EBPA cap for an anniversary 2013-14 season.
The Bournemouth, England, native and former executive director of Youth Orchestras of San Antonio, Texas, arrives as Oakland East Bay Symphony celebrates its 25th anniversary; Oakland Symphony Chorus its 55th year; and Oakland Youth Orchestra's 50th season. He succeeds 18-year veteran Jennifer Duston, who retired in February.
Payne began his musical career at the age of 9 on a clarinet. The son of a police officer father and dressmaking-business-owner mother, his blue-collar parents encouraged the "bug" he said bit him at the age of 16.
"I entered the Dorset Youth Orchestra and had the time of my life discovering and performing amazing works in wonderful venues with fantastic artists," he said, in an interview shortly after his appointment was announced.
An infectious school music teacher fanned the ember of his passion for music, and Payne went on to earn a bachelor of arts in music from the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama in Cardiff, Wales, and a master's degree in music in clarinet performance from Indiana University.
"I wouldn't be in the U.S. and have had the opportunities I've enjoyed if it wasn't for music," he said.
And the Dayton (Ohio) Philharmonic, Pacific Symphony in Orange County and Youth Orchestras of San Antonio might not have experienced the same growth had Payne not taken that flight to America. Working in various public relations, promotions and executive director positions over the past 13 years, Payne applied his considerable energy to honing and expanding the organizations' artistic and outreach missions. At Youth Orchestras of San Antonio alone, he oversaw growth in the budget ($680,000 to $1.2 million), students served (450 to 1,500), outreach programming, and he expanded the music director position to full-time.
"I can't imagine a new executive director with more appropriate qualifications, experience and enthusiasm than Steven Payne," EBPA Board Chair Bette Epstein said in a news release.
"I see myself as the person that gets to ask some of the questions and challenge the thinking of the artists and experts within an organization," Payne said. "I'm looking forward to slotting into the current framework and perhaps offering one or two tweaks to currently-laid plans. But I think it is only right to respect the work of those that have worked so diligently to build what looks like wonderful plans for next year's season."
Payne said he'd be lying if he didn't admit moving to the Bay Area was a definite attraction in accepting the position. But the EBPA's combination of three organizations was the real magnet: with strong leaders, people he could work with and a core belief in quality music he shared.
"Specifically, the possibility and hope (music) brings to really affect community through education programs resonated directly with my fundamental beliefs," he said.
Payne intends to be a collaborative leader, emphasizing that the EBPA "is not an organization in crisis, so it doesn't need a list of quick-fix ideas."
But that doesn't mean a rapid stream of possibilities don't fly from his lips with the mildest prompt. With millennials moving up in the workforce, young consumers are trending online. Classical music organizations must become more active on social media while not abandoning traditional media, he insisted. To engage broader audiences, he suggested YouTube promotional videos, Twitter feeds and an online blog or Tumblr page might provide a focal point for housing EBPA's future promotions.
But first, he plans to listen to Oakland's community leaders, bring out the tapestry of talent he recognizes and respects and discover deep, meaningful ways to impact the community within a sustainable, growth-oriented business structure.