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Ravell Call, Deseret Morning News
Melia Tourangeau, former CEO of the Grand Rapids Symphony in Michigan, was named new CEO for the Utah Symphony & Opera Friday.

Melia Tourangeau, former CEO of the Grand Rapids Symphony in Michigan, has been named the new president and CEO for the Utah Symphony & Opera, the organization announced Friday.

Tourangeau will officially assume the post in Salt Lake City in late April, replacing former CEO Anne Ewers, who left the US&O last June to assume a similar position with the Kimmel Center in Philadelphia.

"I know I can come here and do a great job," Tourangeau told the Deseret Morning News. "I'm really excited about the opportunities here. The cultural support and the huge tradition of philanthropy you have here is amazing."

She said she was attracted to the US&O position after she came to Salt Lake City for an interview. "There was a great connection with the musicians, donors and other people I met. I was surprised by that. And chemistry is everything."

While the US&O is a larger organization with a substantially greater budget than the Grand Rapids Symphony, Tourangeau said the challenges facing her here are similar to those in Michigan. "One of my greatest strengths is in bringing people together. I'm a strategic thinker and planner. I can get people to march along the same road. I can find a common ground for everyone."

Tourangeau realizes that the 2002 merger of the Utah Symphony and the Utah Opera made a huge impact on the cultural community — not all of it positive. "We need to find a unified voice and not remain splintered. It's time to move on, and I believe I can do that."

She believes it is important to acknowledge symphony music director Keith Lockhart's impact here. "We need to celebrate everything Keith has been able to do. That will be one of my first priorities."

On Tourangeau's agenda when she assumes her new position are several things: She wants to strengthen the core audience base; she wants to create a base of financial support; and finally, she wants to work with unified goals from the symphony's administrative side.

The search committee spent about eight months conducting a national search for Ewers' replacement. Patricia Richards, US&O board chairwoman, said Tourangeau fulfilled all of the search committee's criteria. "She had recommendations in all categories. She is a strategic thinker, she is an empowering manager, and she developed very strong relationships with donors and the community (in Grand Rapids). She elevated the profile of the Grand Rapids Symphony in the community to the point where it is the premiere arts organization there. And I believe she will do the same thing here."

Among Tourangeau's accomplishments with the Grand Rapids Symphony was its sold-out performance in Carnegie Hall in 2005 and a DVD and CD titled "Invention & Alchemy," which received a Grammy nomination in 2007 and has been syndicated to 60 public radio stations nationwide.

Tourangeau joined the Grand Rapids Symphony as education director 11 years ago. She became its CEO in 2005. "I worked my way up through the organization, and I had come as far as I could with them." That was when she began considering leaving Grand Rapids.

There were 35 candidates in the running for Ewers' old job. Five were asked to come to Salt Lake City for interviews. Tourangeau was one of them.

What impressed the search committee most was how Tourangeau expressed what needed to be done here to continue to be successful. "She probably articulated the potential she saw here best, and also what could be done," Richards said.

"I'm looking forward to the challenge," Tourangeau said. "I can take everything I learned in Grand Rapids and bring it here."

E-mail: ereichel@desnews.com