Managing Director of the London Symphony Orchestra, Kathryn McDowell, has been awarded a CBE for services to music in the Queen's Birthday Honours list 2011
Chairman of the LSO, Lennox Mackenzie, said; 'this is a greatly deserved recognition of her hard work and commitment over many years to music both at the LSO and in her previous roles elsewhere.'
Kathryn McDowell joined the London Symphony Orchestra as Managing Director in 2005. Building on the Orchestra's strong artistic reputation she has enriched its artistic programme with outstanding artists and the integration of its Discovery programme into the heart of the LSO's residency at the Barbican Centre; extended its profile internationally through residencies at La Salle Pleyel in Paris, The Aix-en-Provence Festival, Lincoln Centre, New York, Suntory hall, Tokyo, and regular visits to Russia, China and India; developed its award winning recording label LSO Live into the most successful orchestra-owned label in the world; extended its Discovery programme at LSO St Luke's to become the leader in the field of Education & Community work; and built a more sustainable financial model for the organisation.
Kathryn was born in 1959 and brought up in Carrickfergus, Northern Ireland, attending Belfast High School, where a strong general education was complemented by excellent extra-curricular opportunities in music and sport. She played an active role in the local community as a teenager, becoming an officer in the Girls' Brigade, and actively involved in the youth activity of her local church and in local music making. She read Music at Edinburgh University where she instigated many musical activities, as well as performing regularly as a piano accompanist and taking part in the wider student activities of the university. After a postgraduate teaching course in Belfast, she spent a year as a volunteer worker in a UN Refugee Camp outside Vienna for political refugees, leading a programme of music, arts and sport for the refugee community under the auspices of YMCA.
Vacation work with BBC Northern Ireland and the Edinburgh Festival opened her eyes to the wider opportunities within the arts, and the experience of the power of music with people of many different backgrounds in the refugee camp led, on her return, to a role with Welsh National Opera in the developing field of arts education. The following year, a new post at Scottish Chamber Orchestra was an opportunity to develop these ideas with an orchestra – initiating music education projects across Scotland, building activities with the local communities in the more remote parts of the country, and working with composers and musicians to develop new repertoire.
After four years in this role, Kathryn decided that she needed more experience of general orchestral management, and returned to Belfast to work with the Ulster Orchestra as Deputy General Manager with responsibility for the scheduling, artistic planning, budgeting and touring of the orchestra. At this time she also worked with the Association of British Orchestras to develop the education and community activity of other UK orchestras leading, in 1993, to the ABO's national education project, The Turn of the Tide, involving 16 orchestras, many of whom were participating in this work for the first time.
In 1992, Kathryn moved to London to take the post of Opera and Music Theatre officer for the Arts Council, working closely with the large opera companies, and also setting up a development scheme for the support of the burgeoning small scale companies. 18 months later, she became Music Director, with responsibility for all areas of music and opera supported by the Arts Council – an opportunity to gain an overview of music and opera in England at a time when Lottery funding was introduced and an ambitious capital programme launched.
In 1999, Kathryn took the new post of Chief Executive of the Wales Millennium Centre in Cardiff, a project to set up a new centre for the performing arts with WNO and seven other arts organisations at its core. This involved developing the vision for the centre, building support for the idea locally and nationally, and ensuring that the design could be achieved within the available resource. At the point where support for the building design, cultural ambition and funding package was confirmed by the key funding partners, Kathryn returned to London to become Director of the City of London Festival – a return to more 'hands on' arts and events programming.
Directing the 2002–5 festivals within the City of London, offered an excellent opportunity to build relationships with the City business community and the Corporation, and to work closely once again with artists in commissioning and realising their ambitions, and also building audiences for the arts.
Kathryn holds honorary awards from the Royal College of Music and Trinity College of Music. She is a Governor of the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, a member of the St Paul's Cathedral Council, and a Board Member of the ABO. She was appointed a Deputy Lieutenant of Greater London in 2009.