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New Symphony CEO Discusses Her Role, Goals

Marie-Hélène Bernard of St. Louis Symphony
Courtesy of St. Louis Symphony

Marie-Hélène Bernard believes music connects things. People. History. Literature. Sports. And, for Bernard, law.

As a teenager, Bernard played the viola da gamba professionally. Then she became a lawyer, practicing corporate and tax law. But something was missing.

“I realized that music was really a calling, and I could bring skills that the music field needed, both from the business legal standpoint and music and management standpoint,” she told “Cityscape” host Jim Kirchherr on Friday.

Earlier this week, the St. Louis Symphony announced that Bernard will take over as its president and CEO in July.  

“The St. Louis Symphony has a magnificent orchestra and has also a magnificent chorus,” she said. “Artistically, the leadership of David Robertson is a very inspiring one. I found a very embracing, dedicated, committed community. And that’s very exciting because when you sense that a community has great appetite for its music performances and programming, the possibilities are endless.”

Bernard now leads the Handel and Haydn Society in Boston, the nation’s oldest continuously performing arts organization. In St. Louis, she will replace Fred Bronstein, who left in May 2014 to lead the Peabody Institute of the Johns Hopkins University.

“My passion for music is endless. I have tremendously enjoyed connecting musicians to community,” Bernard said. “The connection to music is something that human beings need, but sometimes they don’t know they need it until they are basically brought into it.”

Bernard said she still plays the viola da gamba for fun, “but it was clear that my skills were better used towards business and management and leadership,” she said. “I really discovered over the years that I really enjoy getting patrons and donors to really experience a sense of fulfillment in helping and supporting the field.”

“Cityscape” is produced by Mary Edwards and Alex Heuer and sponsored in part by the Missouri Arts Council, the Regional Arts Commission, and the Arts and Education Council of Greater St. Louis.