Courtney Mahaffey is moved by orchestral music and by advocacy.
In those regards, serving as the San Angelo Symphony’s executive director is a perfect fit.
Just don’t ask her if she has a music background, creates the symphony’s repertoires or goes on stage.
“No to all of that,” Mahaffey said flatly.
Poised and polished, Mahaffey, 38, makes compelling cases for why the symphony is important to San Angelo, how it enriches the lives of young and old alike, and why you should shun the stereotypes about symphonic music.
“Coming to the symphony is an opportunity to sit down for two hours simply to enjoy and unwind and listen,” she said. “That’s a perk. And you’re supporting a nonprofit in San Angelo that is giving back in multiple ways.”
A native San Angeloan, Mahaffey and her husband Steve had successful careers in Austin when they decided they wanted to live where they felt more connected to the community.
She laughed when he suggested she apply for the symphony opening. However, “I found a group of people that not only cared about artistic programming; they cared about the community,” she said. “It was something I could really lend myself to.”
As executive director, she tends to the business side of the symphony, leaving the music to Maestro Hector Guzman.
She loves that the symphony brings children to it and goes to their schools to connect them to music. She launched a similar effort to take music – all sorts of music – to seniors in care facilities. The performances have reached 90,000 people across West Texas.
“The fact the symphony can give back and provide free programming, I love that part of my job,” she said. “We’re making an impact right in our community.”
On Oct. 7, after a six-year absence, the Symphony returned to City Auditorium and the gloriously renovated Murphey Performance Hall. During that span, the Symphony grew its following by staging programming so appealing that people would’ve come to listen in a parking lot, Mahaffey said.
“When you have a maestro like we do and the orchestra members we have,” she said, “you can go to any performance and feel just about every emotion.”
She added that staging the first public event in the transformed hall was a duty with a heavy sense of responsibility.
“I’m proud we get to present a performance that will wow people and make them excited to be back in the space,” she said weeks before the performance. “I’m thrilled to be back in our hall because of the history we’ve had with it. It feels like home.”
As does San Angelo.
“We’re invested in the community,” Mahaffey said of herself and her husband. “We show up and we work. I know we wouldn’t have been able to do that in the same capacity in Austin as we can here. I’m proud to be from here and to work in a place where I can better the community and be a part of it.”