‘Converse Conductor’ Kicks Off Directorial Debut At Baltimore Symphony Orchestra

‘Converse Conductor’ Kicks Off Directorial Debut At Baltimore Symphony Orchestra

Heyward is known for wearing his red Chuck Taylors to performances.

Jonathon Heyward, known as the ‘Converse Conductor’ for frequently donning the famed sneakers, is making history as the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra’s musical director. The cellist is now the first Black person and the youngest to hold the esteemed position.

Picking up a cello at 10, as explained by NBC News, his mastery of the instrument led him to a renowned career in music, earning him the historic appointment to lead the Maryland city’s orchestra.

“I picked up the cello in the fifth grade and instantly felt a part of something. You are creating something bigger than one person. I think that’s the beauty of the unity that you get from that classical music form,” shared the 31-year-old conductor.

As for his signature sneaker look, his unconventional attire happened accidentally after forgetting his formal shoes for The Hallé orchestra concert in Manchester, England. Knowing the show must go on, the assistant conductor performed while wearing his red Chuck Taylor Converse. As the crowd loved the pop of color, Heyward decided to continue with style choice, noting its more excellent comfortability as well, and has since been known as the ‘Converse Conductor’ to his growing fanbase.

In his new role, Heyward is breaking color boundaries beyond his shoes. With nearly 62% of Baltimore’s African American population, Heyward believes having a person in this role reflect most of its community is a much-needed step in the right direction.

“In the year 2023, I didn’t think I would be saying that: ‘the first African American music director. It’s a testament that work needs to be done,” shared Heyward.

His work to connect with the community through music extends to the Dance Theatre of Harlem and the Orch Kids program in Baltimore, as introducing the youth to a potential love of classical music reminds him of his own childhood. Heyward has already commenced his five-year-tenure with a three-concert tour back in September, and with his red shoes and passion for the genre in tow, he is leading the BSO on a vibrant start.

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