General Director & CEO
With over 25 years in artistic and administrative leadership, W.R. (Bob) McPhee C.M. has become recognized as a leading force in the Canadian arts scene.
Bob was born and raised in Winnipeg where he received his initial education and music training, graduating from the University of Manitoba. He began his career as a baritone performing in theatre, opera and on radio and television. He served as artistic director and conductor for several choral groups and taught a private class of students.
Gradually, Bob became more involved in arts administration and studied at Grant MacEwan University, The Banff Centre School of Management and Stanford University. His first administrative position was with the Royal Winnipeg Ballet as Development Officer and then Director of Development. He joined the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra as Director of Development and Marketing and was later appointed Assistant General Manager.
Bob was General Manager of Orchestra London prior to joining the Edmonton Symphony as General Manager. In 1992 he was appointed President and CEO of the Edmonton Symphony Society and Edmonton Concert Hall Foundation. He successfully led these organizations to the on-schedule and on-budget completion of the state-of-the-art Winspear Centre for Music, complete with a $5M operating endowment in place. The orchestra was in a very stable fiscal position with a solid base of support of over 13,000 subscribers. They introduced a very successful summer festival, began a touring program, made significant commitments to the development and creation of Canadian works and released numerous recordings. In addition, the organization had grown to a total operating budget of $12M with just over 200 employees.
Bob McPhee joined Calgary Opera as General Director and CEO in 1998 allowing him to return to his first love, opera. During his tenure Calgary Opera has more than doubled its operating budget from $2M opera to $5.8M achieving 14 consecutive surplus seasons performing to more than 80% capacity. In addition to attaining financial stability, Bob has also led the company to great artistic achievements. Calgary Opera holds the distinction of being one of the most recorded companies in Canada, is a leader in the development in new Canadian opera works, runs western Canada’s most comprehensive professional training programs for Emerging Artists, and mounted Canada’s first outdoor summer opera festival in August 2013. In 2005 Calgary Opera became the second opera company in Canada to have its own facility, with a 10-year lease of the historic Wesley Church in Calgary’s Beltline District.
Throughout his career, Bob has been active in many professional associations and is in demand as a clinician and lecturer. He has been an adjudicator, assessor and board member for numerous organizations. He was the first Canadian invited to speak at an Opera Europa Conference in Paris. He is a founding board member of the Calgary Arts Development Authority, Past Chair of Opera.ca, is a member of the OPERA America Board of Directors, sits on the Lieutenant Governor of Alberta Arts Award, as well as the Premier's Council for Culture. During his career Bob has worked with some of the great artists of the world from Itzach Perlman to YoYo Ma, from Renee Fleming to Pavarotti. He has also been the recipient of many awards including the Alberta Achievement Award (1988), Syncrude Canada Scholarship for “Innovation in Arts Leadership” (1992), Grant MacEwan University (1994) “Alumni of Distinction Award,” Chalmers National Award for “Achievement in Arts Administration” (2000), the first Rozsa Award for “Excellence in Arts Artistic/Administration Leadership” (2003), a Fellowship at Stanford University, Graduate School of Business – Executive Program in Non-Profit Leadership – Arts (2004), and a Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal (2012) .
On December of 2013, his Excellency the Right Honourable David Johnston, Governor General of Canada, appointed Bob to the Order of Canada, one of our country's highest civilian honours. It was established in 1967, during Canada's centennial year, to recognize outstanding achievement, dedication to the community and service to the nation. Over the last 45 years, more than 6,000 people from all sectors of society have been invested into the Order.
Most recently, Bob was awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award at the Opera Canada Awards (also known as a Ruby - 2015). These awards were established in 1999 to recognize and honour outstanding individual achievements on stage and behind the scenes.