Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra’s Assistant Conductor Chair is Endowed by Longtime Donors and Subscribers Ashley and Barbara Ford

The Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra (CSO) has announced that longtime donors Ashley and Barbara “Bobbie” Ford have made a major gift to the Orchestra to endow the assistant conductor chair, currently held by François López-Ferrer. The gift marks the second chair supported in perpetuity by the Fords, who generously endowed the principal tuba chair in 2017.

The gift was funded in early fall 2019, with plans to announce it at the end of the current season, celebrating the CSO’s 125th anniversary. With the rest of the season canceled due to the COVID-19 crisis, the Fords felt that making the announcement now would signify confidence in the future of the Orchestra despite the current difficulties.

“We are grateful to the Fords for their generosity and for their investment in the Orchestra,” said CSO President Jonathan Martin. “In Cincinnati, we are very fortunate to have generations of stewards who have ensured the CSO’s long-term financial stability. Ashley and Bobbie have shown exemplary philanthropic leadership in our community. That we have the opportunity to announce their gift as this pivotal moment demonstrates their unwavering commitment to preserving the legacy of our 125-year-old Orchestra for generations to come. It is a strong reminder of the power of philanthropy.”

“What a time we are all in. We still have trouble believing that this world-shattering thing is happening in real time while we are around to see it--and actually in the middle of it. But even bad times have good sides, and the good side here—to the extent there is one—is that the crisis is reminding us as to what is important and what is not so much, what is worth preserving despite the disaster and what is not. Out of darkness there can come light,” said the Fords. “To us, what is worth preserving for the future is the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, just as previous generations helped preserve it for ours. Our hearts are very much invested in this wonderful organization and, in keeping with the maxim in fundraising that ‘where the heart is goes the treasure,’ we are delighted to find ourselves now to be connected with an additional major chair for this orchestra, namely the post of assistant conductor as currently held by François López-Ferrer. In the current crisis we hope that this announcement may offer the Orchestra a beacon of hope for weathering the storm, and maybe it will motivate others to rally round the cause as well.”

The CSO’s assistant conductor position has a wide set of responsibilities, providing artistic support to CSO Music Director Louis Langrée and May Festival Principal Conductor Juanjo Mena at all rehearsals and performances and being prepared to step in at a moment’s notice if necessary. The assistant conductor also conducts CSO Young Peoples Concerts which reach over 17,000 students and teachers annually.

“The CSO is the orchestra I grew up with, and the first live performances I heard were given by the CSO with my father, Jesús López Cobos, conducting, said François López-Ferrer. “As a child, I spent quite a bit of time running around between the Green Room (when it was still green) and the hall during rehearsals, trying to catch a glimpse of this mysterious act of conducting my father was doing, and then going home and imitating him. Therefore, returning to the Queen City and to the CSO in this inspiring new context as assistant conductor is the most perfect way imaginable for me to reconnect with my most personal musical roots. I am grateful to the Fords for their support of the CSO, and in particular to supporting the assistant conductor position.”As the son of the late Jesús López Cobos, who served as Music Director of the CSO from 1986 to 2001 and as Music Director Emeritus until his passing in 2018, François López-Ferrer grew up in Cincinnati, graduated with a Bachelor of Music in Composition from the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music (CCM). He then studied conducting at the Lausanne Conservatory of Music and has since served as associate conductor of the National Symphony Orchestra of Chile and debuted with many orchestras across Europe and South America.

López-Ferrer recently garnered international attention following a critically acclaimed debut with the Verbier Festival Orchestra, filling in for Iván Fischer and conducting alongside Sir Simon Rattle and Gabor Takács-Nagy at the 2018 Verbier Festival in Switzerland. Highlights of the 20/21 season include debuts with the Spanish National Orchestra, the Symphony Orchestra of Galicia, and the Buenos Aires Philharmonic at the esteemed Teatro Colón. He will also participate in the renowned Bruno Walter National Conductor Preview with the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra.