Posted Online: Nov. 28, 2012, 12:32 pm

Musical 'Renaissance man' to lead QCSO

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By Jonathan Turner,

Benjamin Loeb has been named the new executive director of the Quad City Symphony Orchestra.
Benjamin Loeb brings a diverse wealth of musical experience to his next job: the new executive director of the Quad City Symphony Orchestra.

The 46-year-old El Paso, Texas, man holds four music degrees from some of the most prestigious institutions in the country, and he has an extensive background as a pianist, conductor, arranger, teacher, music director, and arts administrator. Mr. Loeb comes to the Quad-Cities after spending two years as executive director of Greater Bridgeport (Conn.) Symphony Orchestra.

"Ben brings a wide variety of skills to the job of executive director," said Julie McHard, QCSO board president, Wednesday in a news release. "Our search committee is impressed with his music and business acumen. He has worked as a conductor, teacher, and manager. I am anxious to introduce Ben to the community and the symphony family."

Mr. Loeb -- who will start the position Jan. 7 -- was chosen out of dozens of applicants nationwide. He succeeds Jeff vom Saal, QCSO chief for five years, who left in early August to lead the Marin Symphony Orchestra in California.

"I am looking forward to working with Ben to maintain the considerable momentum the orchestra and the organization are currently enjoying," said Mark Russell Smith, QCSO music director and conductor. "Ben is a talented and versatile arts administrator who is committed to excellence and to making music accessible to all. We share a passion for orchestral music and how it is uniquely capable of enriching everyone's life."

Mr. Loeb holds a bachelor's degree in music from Harvard University, a master's in accompanying from the Curtis Institute of Music, a doctor of musical arts in accompanying from The Juilliard School, and a graduate performance diploma in conducting from the Peabody Conservatory. His younger sister is pop singer/songwriter Lisa Loeb, who recorded the "Reality Bites" hit "Stay."

Mr. Loeb was the founder, executive director, and music director of the El Paso Symphony Youth Orchestras. He was one of the first piano faculty members of the El Paso Conservatory of Music and is the founder, administrator, and on the conducting faculty of the International Conducting Workshop and Festival, which has presented master classes around the world for more than 11 years.

In November 2010, when he was appointed to the Bridgeport Symphony position, music director Gustav Meier, with whom Mr. Loeb studied conducting at Peabody, called him a "Renaissance man."

"He is very intelligent and can do so many things well," Mr. Meier told the Connecticut Post.

"I'm always looking to make a big impact with my music, my skills," Mr. Loeb said Wednesday in a phone interview. "I believe so passionately in the power of music and the arts."

"I'm thrilled to be a part of the Quad City Symphony, working with music director Mark Russell Smith and the QCSO board and staff to help continue the tradition of bringing great orchestra performances and education programs to the Quad-Cities," he said. "I believe all the elements are in place for the QCSO to become a national model for regional orchestras."

After two visits to the Quad-Cities, one of which included a symphony concert, Mr. Loeb said he was "impressed with the support of the board, the skill of the staff, the enthusiasm of the audiences, and the livability of the Quad-Cities."

He is a great admirer of Mr. Smith, who's also a Juilliard and Curtis alum. "His energy and ideas are fantastic.He and I speak exactly the same language."

Mr. Loeb has a deep performing and conducting background, and he sees that as key to succeeding as an executive who can successfully carry out a long-range vision and broaden support for the orchestra.

"I love building things," he said. "There's nothing more thrilling than a big audience responding to a performance." His experiences "will allow me to relate more to the musicians, help me have discussions with Mark about programming --to help craft an experience for audiences in the Quad- Cities. One thing I've learned from performing all over, regardless of where you are -- Iowa, Illinois, or Uruguay -- is that people have the same powerful reactions to great powerful performances."

The QCSO, with its focus on outreach and youth, is "fully integrated into the community in terms of audience, musicians, board and support," Mr. Loeb said. "That's what really excited me."

Mr.Loeb and his wife, Quyen, a dentist, have three children, ages 6, 4 1/2, and 2.