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Kim Noltemy Is Building a 21st Century Orchestra in Dallas

The president and CEO of the DSO believes orchestras should be as enmeshed in their communities as professional sports teams.
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Courtesy: Dallas Symphony Orchestra Courtesy DSO

Dallas symphony orchestra president and CEO Kim Noltemy is a regular at Ellie’s. It makes sense. The Napa-inspired restaurant in Craig Hall’s Arts District hotel sits just across the street from the Meyerson Symphony Center. As we chat over morning coffee, her regular order of oatmeal and fresh fruit arrives at the table. She nods appreciatively, then eyes my Grapefruit Brulée (a flambeed half-grapefruit with a bowl of honey oats topped with Greek yogurt and lemon curd) and says, “I may have to try that sometime.”

It has been a little more than five years since Noltemy moved from Boston to Texas to take the helm of the DSO. She got into the orchestra business through a “side door.” An immersive study of Japanese while earning a B.A. at Smith College led to a job in Japan, but a visa snafu brought her home. She took a job in international marketing, and client work connected her with the Boston Symphony Orchestra. When a marketing post at the BSO became available, she threw her hat in the ring and was hired. 

Back then, in the mid-1990s, orchestra marketing mostly involved selling tickets on subscription. Then the internet took off, and suddenly, “the whole world was open,” Noltemy says. “There were a million things you could do.” As people began moving away from subscriptions to buying tickets one-off, audience development gained in importance. Noltemy demonstrated a knack for innovation, with programs like “pay your age for tickets” and co-promotions with the Red Sox and Celtics.Her success led to calls from recruiters, but she wanted to give her two children the stability of not moving around, and the orchestra continually provided opportunities to learn and grow. 

But by 2018, she was ready to consider relocating for a top spot. She looked at several opportunities; Dallas stood out. “They were in the process of searching for a new music director, which was very exciting, and I was impressed by the way the city had so thoughtfully built its Art District over time,” Noltemy says. “The orchestra had been on a constant ascension, and that was important. You must have both the ambition and the ability to make something happen.”

Noltemy aims to build a “21st century orchestra” that is as much a part of the community as the Dallas Cowboys or other professional sports teams. That means both getting out to where people are and welcoming them in. During the pandemic, the DSO did more than 400 free outdoor and community concerts. In 2019, Noltemy led an effort to assume management of and restore the Morton H. Meyerson Symphony Center. She’s now pushing to help other organizations use the space. “We want to be the center of music in Dallas—everybody’s music, not just our music,” she says.

Restoring the Meyerson is just one of many achievements Noltemy has racked up in her five years leading the DSO. Other wins include national media partnerships with Bloomberg and American Public Television, diversifying programming, developing a successful Women in Classical Music program, and growing the orchestra’s educational initiatives for young musicians. She’s also reaching out to a new generatiown of DSO fans through programs like a recent young professionals event that mashed Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 5 with the music of Drake. “No orchestra will truly succeed unless they’re integral to their community,” Noltemy says.   

Author

Christine Perez

Christine Perez

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Christine is the editor of D CEO magazine and its online platforms. She’s a national award-winning business journalist who has…

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