Spotlight on Rob McDonald
For this Spotlight we feature CSO Board Member Rob McDonald.
As a member of the CSO and Pops Board of Directors since 2014, Rob McDonald is passionate about getting young people involved with the Orchestra and invested in Cincinnati. “We bat way out of our league with the CSO and to me that’s one of the reasons I wanted to get involved and stay involved. And under Trey [CSO President Trey Devey], Melody [former Board Chair Melody Sawyer Richardson] and Jim’s [current Board Chair Jim Schwab] leadership it’s been exciting to see the organization evolve, with things like LUMENOCITY, MusicNOW and other events that attract younger people to orchestral music.” He wants to see the CSO continue to invest in younger patrons by opening up new opportunities and experiences. “I think the patrons who have been around awhile see the value in that too.”
Rob was born in Cincinnati but grew up in Asia. He played in his high school jazz band, which involved some travel with the small school orchestra and served as an initiation to classical music. “In Asia, classical music seems to be more prominent and accessible, so I was exposed to it a lot growing up,” he said. He returned to the U.S. for university, and after working in Manhattan for a time, he ended up back in Cincinnati after law school. “I looked at Taft [law firm], and really enjoyed the people and quality of life, and I realized I would be able to get much more engaged with the community here, which is something I really desired to do,” said Rob.
When Rob returned to Cincinnati, he started attending CSO concerts, and via social channels was introduced to the Orchestra’s young professional volunteer group, CSO Encore. The group was becoming increasingly focused on driving YP audiences to concerts while hosting unique parties and other social events. Rob served as CSO Encore co-chair from 2011 to 2013, and some of his favorite CSO memories stem from then, such as a “speakeasy” party with saxophonist Branford Marsalis (“he had more fun than the rest of us!”), a party with violinist Ray Chen, who showed off his breakdancing skills, and meeting Sarah Chang. “All my experiences go back to hearing incredible artists and getting to hang out with them after. You see that they enjoy it, too,” he said.
When not working with the CSO, Rob is also very involved with the Boy Scouts. As an Eagle Scout, he’s developed a particular passion for engaging with youth in the urban core. “It’s a similar organization to the CSO because it had a reputation for being an older organization, and it required some adaptation to bring it to young people and make it accessible for underserved children.” He’s also been involved in entrepreneurship, particularly through his work with The Brandery. “The success of our city will rely on companies less than five years old,” he said. “I think we have critical pieces that are starting to come together. Millennials are very social, so having transportation options and urban hangouts is important. By fostering the development of emerging companies here we will encourage Millennials to stay here. We used to see all the university grads leave town, but more and more we experience them wanting to stay here.”
The CSO also provides a source of inspiration, both for Rob and other young professionals, which makes growing a younger patron base even more important. “It’s hard to find moments of contemplation and solace in this day and age, and the CSO is one of the places you can do this. Work can be tedious, so getting exposure to the arts is always going to be inspiring. There are so many other people that need to be inspired by this, too,” he said.