Ann Koonsman, esteemed former president and CEO of the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra, passed away on June 21, the symphony announced.
Koonsman served the orchestra in multiple capacities for decades, as a violinist, vice president of development, and executive director of the FWSO from 1980 to 2004. She returned to the FWSO in 2006 as president and CEO, a position she held until her second retirement in 2011. She had faced "significant health challenges" toward the end of her life, symphony personnel say.
“On behalf of the FWSO board members, musicians, supporters and staff, we are heartbroken to hear of the passing of our beloved Ann Koonsman," says FWSO Chairman of the Board Mercedes T. Bass in a release. "As everyone knows, she was the best president the FWSO had. We are grateful for her passion, hard work and devotion in bringing the FWSO thus far through thick and thin!
"Ann will be missed but her memory will remain in our hearts and she will always be a part of the FWSO family.”
Koonsman — a glamorous woman easily recognized around Fort Worth with her bright red, Texas-sized 'do — "had an enormous impact on the FWSO’s growth from regional chamber orchestra to the nationally respected organization the FWSO is today," the orchestra notes.
Among her accomplishments was elevating the FWSO's status as one of the most successful orchestras in its budget category with a $12 million balanced budget, a 45-week concert season, and a $27 million endowment fund. During her tenure, the orchestra performed on international tours, produced numerous recordings, commissioned projects, and transitioned into Bass Performance Hall in 1998.
She also founded the wildly popular Concerts In The Garden Summer Music Festival in 1990.
"Among Ann Koonsman’s many exceptional leadership qualities was her ability to collaborate," FWSO says. "Her successful partnership with John Giordano, Sr. (now Music Director Emeritus of the FWSO) allowed for the dramatic improvement of artistic quality within the ensemble. She continued to embody the spirit of collaboration in her work with Music Director Miguel Harth-Bedoya (now Music Director Laureate) as he ushered in yet another era of rapid artistic growth for the orchestra."
The former Ann Milford, a 1968 graduate of Texas Christian University, told the school's alumni magazine that retiring from FWSO (the first time) with the orchestra in such good shape in 2004 was "sort of like being a very caring parent." She recalled the orchestra's spectacular send-off at a New Year's Eve concert featuring renowned pianist (and Koonsman's friend) Van Cliburn.
The orchestra also announced then they were naming the associate concert master's chair in her honor, a distinction that remains today (held by Associate Concertmaster Swang Lin).
"I never in my wildest dreams could have imagined such a grand evening," she told the magazine.
A memorial service for Koonsman will take place at 1 pm Friday, June 25 at Broadway Baptist Church, 305 West Broadway Ave., Fort Worth.