After 17 years of service, the Houston Ballet Director Cecil C. Conner, Jr., is saying, “Good-bye” to the ballet as he prepares for retirement in February 2012. Conner’s role will be taken over by James Nelson, Houston Ballet’s current general manger. Conner will be honored for his service with the Houston Ballet at this year’s Jubilee of Dance (on Friday, December 2, 2011 at 7:30 p.m.) as the board, staff, dancers, and musicians salute him for his passion and commitment to leadership.
“I am exceedingly grateful for the generous support of the Houston community in helping us to build the Center for Dance, grow our endowment, and establish such a solid financial base of support for Houston Ballet to grow and prosper artistically in coming decades” commented Mr. Conner.
Life after Retirement
The two things I always want to know when I learn about someone’s retirement plans are: (1) Why did that person chose to retire at that time? (2) And what will they do after they retire?
Well, Conner’s goal was to have Houston Ballet’s Center for Dance built and get to spend a year in it before he retires. February 2012 will mark the one-year anniversary of the staff moving into the Center for Dance. Plus Conner will turn 70 in January, 2012. After retirement he plans to stay in Houston (living in the Montrose area) and travel. He will also help the ballet in an informal way with fundraising.
About Cecil C. Conner, Jr.
Conner came to the Houston Ballet in 1995 with over 30 years of experience as an attorney and veteran arts administrator. Due to his superb fiscal management skills, Connor was able to triple the ballet company’s endowment size and helped Houston Ballet maintain a strong financial position – even during challenging economic times. Conner organized national and international tours and established a series of unique collaborative partnerships with other leading companies across North America to foster the creation of new full-length narrative ballets.
According to Houston Ballet Foundation President Karl Stern, “C.C. Conner has been instrumental in Houston Ballet’s success over the last 17 years. In 2003, he skillfully led the company through an artistic leadership transition. Beginning in 2005, he meticulously laid the groundwork for a transformational moment in the life of the company: the capital campaign that led to the construction of our new $46 million Center for Dance.”
In addition to serving the Houston Ballet, Conner emerged as a leader on the national arts scene having served on the board of Dance USA, the board of directors of the Cultural Arts Council of Houston and Harris County, and as chairman of the board of the Texas Institute for Arts in Education. He currently serves on the board of the American Guild of Musical Artists (AGMA) Retirement and Health Funds and the Houston Downtown Alliance.
About the New Houston Ballet Director, James Nelson
James Nelson is a graduate of Houston Ballet’s Ben Stevenson Academy and a former dancer with Houston Ballet. After retiring from a performing career, Nelson received his BBA in finance from the University of Houston in 1999. Nelson was named general manager of Houston Ballet in August 2000. As general manager, Nelson administers the artistic operation of the company’s 52 dancers, 61 musicians, and 180 production employees. He has budgetary oversight for over half of the company’s budget and Nelson directs all tours for Houston Ballet.
A Smooth Transition
According to Houston Ballet Foundation Chairman of the Board Joseph A. Hafner, Jr., “Jim Nelson has over two decades of institutional knowledge of Houston Ballet, and is a veteran member of the senior management team, with 11 years of experience as general manager. He is intimately familiar with the company’s financial picture and operations. Jim has raised Houston Ballet’s international profile by securing tours for the company to Spain, Canada, and cities large and small across America. He has also organized and executed a busy international touring schedule for Houston Ballet II. The strong working relationships that Jim has developed with both C.C. Conner and Stanton Welch will insure a seamless transition as Jim and Stanton lead Houston Ballet through the next phase of its development.”
Tidbits about James Nelson
- Nelson developed a partnership with The Methodist Hospital Center for Performing Arts Medicine providing health and wellness services to the dancers and staff.
- In 2005, Nelson attended the Stanford University Graduate School of Business Executive Program for Non Profit Leaders.
- Nelson initiated the development of the Dance for Parkinson’s program in partnership with Houston Area Parkinson’s Society resulting in Houston Ballet receiving the 2009 Roy H. Cullen Quality of Life Award for this initiative.
- Nelson is a graduate of Leadership Houston Class XXVI.
- In 2006, Nelson participated in Mayor Bill White’s Economic Development Mission to China as a cultural delegate.
- Nelson is an active member of Dance USA, the national service organization for dance.
- Nelson was a board member of the IATSE Pension Plan from December 2001 through January 2011 and has served as a board member of the Performing Arts Alliance (formerly American Arts Alliance).
For more information about the Houston Ballet visit Houstonballet.org.