The Edmonds-based Cascade Symphony has named a longtime music administrator and educator, Edward Benyas, as its new executive director. He began his duties with the orchestra on Aug. 1.
Benyas, 60, has served as professor of oboe and director of orchestras at Southern Illinois University for the past 29 years in addition to serving as music director of the Southern Illinois Symphony Orchestra and artistic director of the Southern Illinois Music Festival. He also has been music director of the New Chicago Chamber Orchestra since 2012.
“Ed has a long and varied history as a conductor and professor of oboe and conducting at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale,” said Ruth McFadden, president of the Cascade Symphony board of managing directors. “The board was impressed with his organizational and management skills as the founder, artistic director and executive director of the Southern Illinois Music Festival. He has an engaging personality and will bring a multitude of skills to this position.”
Benyas’s career history also includes experience as a professional instrumentalist, chamber musician, attorney, fundraiser and community engager.
“Professor Benyas has an impressive musical and business background, and I am very much looking forward to working with him to continue building the orchestra and bringing more beautiful music to our community,” said Michael Miropolsky, Cascade Symphony’s music director and conductor since 2002.
Benyas created the highly regarded summer music festival in Southern Illinois, raising more than $2 million from public, private, corporate and individual sources in what was an economically depressed area. He also has two decades of experience building relationships in various communities, including board members, donors and audience members.
Benyas previously served as music director of the Skokie Valley Symphony, the North Shore Chamber Orchestra, Symphony Fantastique and the Southern Illinois Youth Orchestra. Under his leadership, the Southern Illinois Symphony was named “Orchestra of the Year,” and he was named “Conductor of the Year” by the Illinois Council of Orchestras.
He holds a graduate degree in orchestral conducting and oboe performance from Northwestern University, as well as bachelor and juris doctor degrees from the University of Michigan. He also studied at the Pierre Monteux School for Conductors and at the International Workshop for Opera Conductors. Benyas has guest-conducted orchestras throughout the U.S. and in Canada, China, France, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, Bulgaria and the Czech Republic.
“I am excited to help the fine artists and conductor of the Cascade Symphony as they continue to musically enrich this community and region,” Benyas said. “Just spending a few days in Edmonds this month, we have discovered what an enchanting place this is.”
Benyas and his wife Kara, who is a concert pianist, now reside in South Snohomish County. They have two grown children, who are juniors at Columbia and Stanford universities.
“Kara and I are very excited to begin the next chapter of our lives in the Pacific Northwest, an area where we have long aspired to live,” Benyas added.
The Cascade Symphony Orchestra has been providing musical entertainment — and support for music education — for Edmonds and the communities of South Snohomish County for the past 62 years. Additional information about the Cascade Symphony is available online at www.cascadesymphony.org.
The orchestra will open its 2023-24 season on Monday, Oct. 23, with its “A Bit of Halloween” concert, at the Edmonds Center for the Arts.