The Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra Announces Contract Extension for Music Director Ken-David Masur

Two-Year Contract Extension Builds on Artistic Growth for MSO

MILWAUKEE, WIS. 11/30/2023 – The Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra announced today that the orchestra and Music Director Ken-David Masur have agreed to extend his current contract through the 2025.26 season. Masur was appointed music director in 2018, and his contract began in the 2019.20 season. Due to the COVID-19 shut down, Masur’s initial four-year contract was extended through 2023.24.

“This new contract extends the partnership between the music director, the musicians, and the administrative team as it continues to cultivate the artistic excellence of the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra,” said Mark Niehaus, MSO president and executive director. “Ken’s commitment to the MSO is crucial to building on the stability of the organization, which includes a new collaborative bargaining agreement with our musicians, a new concertmaster, and a new assistant conductor. We are happy that Ken and his family will stay in Milwaukee, and the artistic future of the MSO is bright.”

“It gives me great joy to continue the artistic partnership with my wonderful colleagues at the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra,” said MSO Music Director Ken-David Masur. “The orchestra musicians’ deep commitment and care for their craft and each composer inspires the work on and off the stage. I am so thankful and proud of the many things that we’ve been able to share with so many new audiences in my first seasons, as we’ve rediscovered together how music is the source for renewed purpose during extraordinary and especially challenging times. Together with wonderful collaborators and our very own stellar Milwaukee Symphony Chorus, I’m looking forward to the programs ahead that will continue to celebrate the great range of colors and deep humanity within our city.”

“As chair of the Musicians’ Committee, I am thrilled about Ken’s contract extension through the 2025.26 season,” said Rob Klieger, MSO Players’ Council chair and principal percussionist. “Ken has demonstrated an unwavering commitment to building new audiences and deepening our connection with the community, making Allen-Bradley Hall a welcoming space for all. His support for our musicians, especially during the challenging times of the pandemic, was remarkable. From organizing porch concerts at his home to launching a podcast featuring MSO recordings, Ken has been instrumental in keeping our music alive in Milwaukee. His efforts in seamlessly transitioning us to a virtual stage and back to in-person programs during this time were exemplary. We are excited to continue this journey under his dynamic leadership.”

“Over the course of five seasons, Ken has done exceptional work crafting thoughtful programs that highlight new voices as well as honoring the classics,” said Susan Martin, MSO board chair. “I was especially impressed with how Ken transitioned to the reimagined virtual season during the pandemic. As we continue to focus on artistic growth as well as community collaborations, I am looking forward to what he has in store for seasons to come.”

Highlights of Masur’s tenure:

  • Masur’s first season with the MSO was cut short in March 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but he continued to focus on keeping the orchestra active and connected to the community through the Musical Journeys podcast that is still available on the MSO’s website.
  • Throughout the summer and fall, Masur developed unique and diverse programming for the orchestra’s first-ever virtual season, which began in January 2021 at the newly finished Bradley Symphony Center.
  • Masur then developed programming for the orchestra’s triumphant first season in its new home. The opening concert in the Allen-Bradley Hall was broadcast live on Milwaukee PBS and then broadcast nationally to 188,000 households in December 2021.
  • The opening concerts of the 2021.22 season featured new Artistic Partner Aaron Diehl, piano. The artistic partner position was developed by Masur and is in its third season, currently held by bass baritone Dashon Burton.
  • Masur’s tenure has included a 30s Festival, which celebrated the time period in which the Warner Theater – the former name for Allen-Bradley Hall – was built; a much acclaimed Water Festival, which highlighted Milwaukee’s unique connection to water; and the Midwest premiere of Mary Lou Williams’ complete Zodiac Suite for orchestra, featuring Aaron Diehl and his trio. During the 2023.24 season, the MSO will hold its first-ever Bach Festival.
  • Masur has been instrumental in the hiring of both the new concertmaster, Jinwoo Lee, and assistant conductor, Ryan Tani. Masur has also appointed 19 new MSO musicians since his tenure began in 2019.

About the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra

The Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra, led by Music Director Ken-David Masur, is among the finest orchestras in the nation and the largest cultural institution in Wisconsin. Since its inception in 1959, the MSO has found innovative ways to give music a home in the region, develop music appreciation and talent among area youth, and raise the national reputation of Milwaukee. The MSO’s 72 full-time professional musicians perform over 135 classics, pops, family, education, and community concerts each season in venues throughout the state. A pioneer among American orchestras, the MSO has performed world and American premieres of works by John Adams, Roberto Sierra, Philip Glass, Geoffrey Gordon, Marc Neikrug, and Matthias Pintscher, as well as garnered national recognition as the first American orchestra to offer live recordings on iTunes. Now in its 52nd season, the orchestra’s nationally syndicated radio broadcast series, the longest consecutive-running series of any U.S. orchestra, is heard annually by more than two million listeners. The MSO’s standard of excellence extends beyond the concert hall and into the community, reaching more than 70,000 children and their families through its Arts in Community Education (ACE) program, Youth and Teen concerts, and Family Series.