Richard Early
  • Title Executive Director

Richard Early became Executive Director of the Des Moines Symphony & Academy in 2008. Prior to his appointment in Des Moines, he was President & Executive Director of the Charlotte Symphony in North Carolina for eleven years.  An arts administrator for over thirty-five years, he previously served as General Manager of the San Francisco Symphony and Executive Director of the Spokane Symphony.  He began his career in orchestra leadership in 1980 when he co-founded the Pro Musica Chamber Orchestra of Columbus (Ohio) and then served there as chief executive for nine seasons.

Mr. Early is an accomplished musician and has played trombone professionally in a variety of musical idioms including extensive free-lance work in symphony orchestras, opera, ballet, jazz and commercial recording. He has performed with the Columbus (Ohio) Symphony Orchestra, the Pro Musica Chamber Orchestra, and the Jazz Arts Group of Columbus among other ensembles and is currently a member of the Turner Center Jazz Orchestra and the Metro Concert Band for Music Under the Stars in Des Moines. As a conductor and educator, he taught instrumental music in the Columbus Public Schools for eight years and helped develop the initial curriculum in instrumental music at Columbus’s Ft. Hayes High School for the Performing Arts. During that time he was Conductor of the Rockwell International Concert Band and Conductor of the Columbus Symphony Cadet Orchestra for eight years. He later was Adjunct Professor of Music at Ohio Wesleyan University and was Music Director & Conductor of the Central Ohio Symphony Orchestra for five seasons.

Richard Early has served on a number of state arts commissions and adjudication panels including work for the Ohio Arts Council, the California Arts Council, Michigan Arts Council and the North Carolina Arts Council. He also served on the Washington State Arts Alliance and the Washington State Arts Commission Governor’s Task Force on the Arts.

A graduate of The Ohio State University he undertook post-graduate studies in business administration, also at Ohio State, and has received a number of teaching and arts awards including the Delaware, Ohio Mayor’s Proclamation and the Columbus Community Achievement Service Award. Richard Early is a Senior Fellow of the American Leadership Forum, Class of 2006, and has been active as a volunteer and board member with a number of service organizations including the American Red Cross, Boy Scouts of America, Habitat for Humanity, the Appalachian Trail Conference and Rotary International, where he is a Paul Harris Fellow.  In Des Moines he has served on the Boards of Bravo Greater Des Moines, the Friends of Drake Arts and the Mid-Iowa Council of the Boy Scouts of America, and is a member of the Rotary Club of Des Moines and the Greater Des Moines Committee. 

Richard and his wife Sarah Davis Early, a programming specialist with the Des Moines Public Library,   are the parents of three adult sons, all married, and the grandparents of two.  The family continues to enjoy many outdoor pursuits including backpacking, hiking, camping, bicycling and golf.

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