Ben Harris brings 12 years of SoNA experience to new role as executive director

Ben Harris. (Courtesy Photo/SoNA)

The Symphony of Northwest Arkansas didn’t have to look far for its new executive director. Ben Harris, who most recently was SoNA’s general manager, officially took the job Sept. 12, a news release announced today.

“Ben Harris is a professional musician and administrator with all the talents to lead SoNA to new heights as an organization,” Marti Sudduth, SoNA Board chairman, said in the release. “We are very fortunate to have him as our new executive director and look forward to many years of leadership together.”

Harris replaces D. Riley Nicholson, who left SoNA in July to lead the Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music in California.

According to the news release, Harris will be responsible for “overall leadership and administration.”

“He will be involved in the organization’s diversity and educational programs, extending throughout the greater Northwest Arkansas region, and will oversee the implementing and planning of major initiatives and policies.”

Harris moved to Fayetteville in 2006 to complete his Master’s degree in Music Composition at the University of Arkansas.

“I had started my program at the University of New Orleans in 2005 but had to leave when Hurricane Katrina rolled through,” he explains.

He joined SoNA in 2012, serving as production manager, then director of operations and annual giving, and most recently, general manager. He’s also a founding member of the Fayetteville Jazz Collective and plays guitar in a local cover band called Full House.

“Ben’s deep knowledge of both the inner workings of SoNA and key stakeholders across the region make him the obvious choice to lead the charge” as SoNA expands across Northwest Arkansas, Paul Haas, the orchestra’s music director, said in the news release. “Ben has the charisma, charm, and grace — not to mention the work ethic — to lead SoNA into a new era.”

Harris said he was honored to be “entrusted with the position of executive director.”

SoNA opens its 2023-24 season Saturday at the Walton Arts Center with “Great Romantics,” featuring the music of Leonard Bernstein and Sergei Rachmaninov.