By Aidan Macnab
The CEO and president of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, Jeff Melanson, is now a distinguished visiting professor (DVP) at Ryerson for the Faculty of Communication and Design’s (FCAD) school of Creative Industries.
His appointment was effective January 1, and in his role as DVP, Melanson will give lectures, put on workshops, and collaborate with and advise students on the creative and cultural industries.
“I look forward to working with students,” said Melanson, “to talk about some of the professional challenges we face, but more importantly how we see the world and how we see the creative industries reshaping our cities and provinces and countries.”
Brittany Wong, vice-president of academics for the creative industries course union, said her faculty is “absolutely delighted” with their new addition.
“Because of the fact that he has a background in arts administration, which many of us in the program are looking to get into, I think his sheer experience and depth of knowledge of these creative industries and creative industries in general, will be a perfect match for our students,” she said.
Melanson has a long resume before his time at the Toronto Symphony Orchestra and Ryerson.
He was executive director of the National Ballet School, a dean at the Royal Conservatory of Music’s community school, and president of the Banff Centre, “the largest arts and creativity incubator on the planet,” according to its site.
Melanson’s career also includes a brief foray into politics. In 2010, he was appointed as former Mayor Rob Ford’s arts and culture advisor.
His taking on the position was contingent on an agreement with the former mayor not to cut the city’s art budget.
Being supportive of public arts funding is something that Wong said is important to her faculty.
“As students and as creative professionals, who are going to be entering these industries, we need that support,” she said.
FCAD Dean Gerd Hauck said Melanson “is extremely well connected politically, to all types of people in Canada involved in the arts, making him, in my mind, a very strong candidate for this position as DVP.”
Hauck said Melanson’s award record will also allow students access to an extensive array of internship and employment opportunities.
In 2009, Melanson was awarded the Queen’s diamond jubilee medal and is the first fine arts administrator to be named in Canada’s top 40 under 40 that same year.
As the Toronto arts administrator begins his work at Ryerson, Melanson views it as another learning experience in his career.
“It sounds trite to say,” Melanson said, “but I think I will gain as much from the interactions with students and faculty at Ryerson, as they will gain from me.”