General Director & CEO
Keith Cerny’s career spans music, technology and business. He began studying piano at the age of 10, and made his debut two years later performing Beethoven’s first piano concerto with the Berkeley Youth Orchestra. He subsequently studied Music and Physics at the University of California at Berkeley.
After graduating with highest honors in both degrees, he won a Fulbright Scholarship to London. There he studied at the English National Opera and the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, and performed and coached regularly for four years. Following his return from London, he worked for two years for the accounting firm Touche Ross & Co. in San Francisco before attending Harvard Business School. While living in Boston, Keith also accompanied voice students in the studio in the Chair of the Voice department at New England Conservatory.
After graduating with honors from HBS, Keith spent nearly 15 years in management consulting, working first for McKinsey & Co. in London and Atlanta, and then as a telecom and high tech Partner with Accenture in San Francisco. During this period, Keith also completed a Ph.D. in Econometrics and Economic Development Policy from the Open University in the U.K. As a consultant, he worked on numerous pro bono projects for opera companies in parallel with his paid consulting work, including the San Francisco Opera, Washington National Opera and Spoleto Festival USA. He was hired by the Board of the San Francisco Opera in 2004 as the Executive Director (COO) and CFO. During his tenure at SF Opera, the company achieved three years of balanced operating results, following an institution-threatening downturn prior to his arrival. He then worked for Russell Reynolds in San Francisco, recruiting CEOs and senior executives for non-profits, before taking over as CEO of SheetMusicPlus.com – the largest online retailer of sheet music.
Keith joined The Dallas Opera in 2010 as General Director & CEO. There, he has worked with the Dallas Opera’s Board of Directors and opera staff to stabilize the company’s finances and grow the endowment, leading to the company’s first balanced operating result in 8 years; recruited an accomplished new Music Director with an international reputation, Emmanuel Villaume; commissioned three world premieres by Joby Talbot and Gene Scheer, Jake Heggie and Terrence McNally, and Mark Adamo; launched the company’s free public simulcast series including simulcasts of Mozart’s Magic Flute and Puccini’s Turandot in AT&T Stadium, Bizet’s Carmen in Klyde Warren Park, and an international simulcast of Tod Machover’s Death and the Powers to 9 locations in the U.S., U.K. and Continental Europe; and forged new artistic collaborations with the Dallas Theater Center, the Dallas Children’s Theater, University of North Texas, the Perot Museum of Nature and Science, and Dallas Museum of Art. In 2011, he was elected to the Board of Directors of Opera America, where he also serves as Chair of the Strategy Committee. He lives in Highland Park, Texas, with his wife Jennifer, their four children, and assorted pets.