June 15, 2024
Chuck Taylors


In downtown Baltimore, a new era in classical music begins with Converse Conductor Jonathan Hayward Makes Musical History in Baltimore. Known as the ‘Converse Conductor’, a symbol of innovation and style, Hayward took over as music director of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra (BSO). Stepping into his distinctive Chuck Taylors, Hayward embarks on a groundbreaking five-year engagement that promises to redefine the city’s musical landscape.

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Serendipitous Beginnings:

Heyward’s journey to the conductor’s podium is marked by serendipitous moments, a theme woven into the fabric of his illustrious career. From a childhood impatience that led him to the cello, the instrument that would shape his destiny, to a chance draw in eighth grade that propelled him into the world of orchestral conducting, Heyward’s path is a testament to the beauty of unplanned destiny.

Historic Appointment:

At 31, Heyward not only assumes the role of the BSO’s musical director but also secures his place in history as the first Black director in the orchestra’s 107-year existence. His appointment is not just a musical milestone but a meaningful stride in a city where over 60% of the population is Black. Heyward’s achievement resonates as a call for continued progress in the classical music world.

Unity in Music:

Central to Heyward’s early interest in orchestral music was the profound sense of community it brought. From picking up the cello in the fifth grade to conducting in eighth grade, Heyward discovered the beauty of creating something larger than oneself—a unity that defines classical music’s essence.

Converse Conductor Jonathon Heyward‘s Style:

Beyond the notes on the score, Heyward’s passion for community and connection extends to his wardrobe, earning him the moniker, the “Converse Conductor.” This unconventional maestro, clad in classic red Chuck Taylors, turned a mishap into a chance for connection during a concert in Manchester, England. The audience embraced his bright-red shoes, celebrating the fusion of musical brilliance and personal style.

Three-Concert Tour Kickoff:

Heyward’s inaugural weekend as the BSO’s music director was nothing short of spectacular. Wearing his signature Converse sneakers, he graced the stage for a three-concert tour in September. The audience, drawn to witness history, experienced a musical journey that seamlessly blended tradition with Heyward’s innovative spirit.

Advocacy for Musical Access:

Sharing the stage with the Dance Theatre of Harlem and Baltimore’s OrchKids program, Heyward’s commitment to bridging gaps in musical access is evident. OrchKids, aimed at expanding classical music access in Baltimore city schools, resonates with Heyward’s own experiences. Advocating for such programs, he emphasizes the importance of passing the musical baton to the next generation.

The Sky is the Limit:

As Heyward looks ahead, he sees limitless possibilities. Witnessing the audience’s enthusiasm for his Converse sneakers, he reflects on the shared passion for breaking conventions. Collaborating with programs like OrchKids, he envisions a future where opportunities abound for aspiring musicians, echoing the support and education that propelled him to where he stands today.

Passing the Baton:

Heyward’s journey is not just a personal triumph but an opportunity to pass the baton. Reflecting on his own experiences with amazing supporters and educators, he emphasizes the vitality of empowering the next generation. The pun-intended reference to passing the baton encapsulates the essence of his mission—nurturing talent, breaking barriers, and ensuring classical music’s enduring legacy.


As Jonathon Heyward takes the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra to new heights, the echoes of his Converse-clad journey resonate far beyond the concert hall. His story is one of musical prowess, serendipitous moments, and a commitment to inclusivity. With every note he conducts, Heyward invites us to join him on a musical journey where the sky is truly the limit.


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