Burns. Photo by Tracy Martin

Burns. Photo by Tracy Martin

Michelle Miller Burns to lead Minnesota Orchestra

Updated: May 3, 2018 - 12:07 pm

Minnesota Orchestra CEO and president Kevin Smith will step down later this year and be replaced by Michelle Miller Burns.

Orchestra Board Chair Marilyn Carlson Nelson announced April 17 that Burns, the current chief operating officer and executive vice president for institutional advancement of the Dallas Symphony Orchestra, will assume the helm of the state’s largest performing arts organization.

Nelson said Burns was a “natural match” for the orchestra’s “highly cooperative governance model.”

“Michelle has a deep knowledge of music, and a highly strategic business sense, as well as significant experience leading major fundraising initiatives and building relationships. She is the right person for Kevin Smith to pass leadership of the organization on to at this point in the Minnesota Orchestra’s history,” she said in a statement.

Smith will retire at the end of August after three years as the orchestra’s head executive. He had previously stepped in as the interim president and CEO and, before that, worked to help the orchestra in a transitional role. Smith spent 25 years heading the Minnesota Opera prior to joining the orchestra.

Burns will assume the position on Sept. 1.

Associate Principal Flute Greg Milliren described Burns as an “ideal successor.”

“Michelle understands where we have come from as an organization and she shares our vision for where we want to go,” said Music Director Osmo Vänskä.

Burns has a background as an orchestra musician. She played violin in the Chicago Youth Symphony Orchestra before beginning her career in a variety of administrative positions with the Chicago Symphony. In 2015, she joined the Dallas Symphony as vice president of development and eventually become its chief operating officer. Most recently, Burns served as the organization’s interim president and CEO.

Burns said she found the collaboration between orchestra staff appealing.

“The collaborative model that has been embraced by the Minnesota Orchestra reflects my own leadership style, which is transparent and open to a wide range of perspectives and input. This is a remarkable organization, and I’m honored to join it,” she said.