Music Director

John Jeter

Music Director and Conductor of the Fort Smith Symphony

John Jeter is presently in his twentieth anniversary season as the Music Director and Conductor of the Fort Smith Symphony. With the tremendous help and support of wonderful musicians, professional staff, board of directors and the community, John has led a transformation of a small community symphony to a large fully professional regional orchestra. As far back as 2002, John and the orchestra were recognized by the League of American Orchestras for their outstanding work with John being the recipient of the League’s Helen M. Thompson Award “in recognition of outstanding artistic leadership.” The Music Director and orchestra have been acknowledged with the Mayor’s Achievement Award presented by the City of Fort Smith and the Mayor’s Civic Center Award for the Performing Arts. John is the recipient of the 2012 Governor’s Arts Award “Individual Artist Award.”

Over the years, John’s interest in music education has led to the creation numerous educational programs, ensembles and community projects. These activities include new ensembles such as the Kool Catz Jazz Quartet and JoltTM electronic string quartet. The symphony’s ongoing “Earquake!TM” concerts for sixth grade students created by John thirteen years ago have exposed close to 80,000 students employing multi-media and large symphony orchestra. His efforts have led to the Fort Smith Symphony’s international recordings on Naxos (the world’s largest classical recording company) as well as a feature length film festival documentary about the Symphony called “Extreme Orchestra.” John’s support of new music has resulted in the Fort Smith Symphony commissioning many works given their world premieres in Fort Smith. For approximately ten years, John was co-host of “Conductor’s Choice” with P.J. Robowski on KUAF National Public Radio. He is still a regular guest on media outlets throughout the region.

In addition to conducting the orchestra in rehearsals and concerts, John selects and contracts with all musicians who play in the orchestra, chooses all programming and guest artists. He is the personnel manager and works closely with the orchestra librarian on the ordering, editing and distribution of music to the orchestra members. He is the primary spokesman for the Symphony in public and with the media. John creates the overall tone and direction for each seasons’s marketing campaign. He is involved extensively in fundraising for the orchestra as well as the creation and management of the organization’s yearly operating budget. In addition, John begins his ninth season as the Fort Smith Symphony’s Executive Director being responsible for the administrative and financial direction of the organization. Nationally, very few orchestras have the Music Director and the Executive Director roles combined.

John has held conducting positions with the Indianapolis Symphony, North Arkansas Symphony, Greater Indianapolis Youth Symphony, Purdue University, University of Tulsa and University of Oklahoma. He has conducted numerous orchestras in the United States and Europe. Since his arrival in Arkansas in the summer of 1996, his primary professional focus has been the Fort Smith Symphony and music education in Fort Smith. He is a Magna Cum Laude graduate of the Hartt School of Music with a degree in Music Theory and Piano and graduated with distinction from Butler University’s Jordan College of Fine Arts with a master’s degree in Orchestral Conducting.

John resides in Fort Smith with his wife Karen; daughter Nicole; Sheltie K-9 sisters Sadie and Grace; and Dobby, the half-Arabian horse. John has little time for hobbies, but if he were to list them, they would include Equine dad, graphic arts, reading and vintage aviation.