Orchestrating Greatness

As the Palm Beach Symphony gets ready to celebrate 50 years this coming season, we caught up with its CEO, Jupiter native David McClymont

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David McClymont paddling in the Intracoastal. Photo by Nick Mele
David McClymont paddling in the Intracoastal. Photo by Nick Mele

David McClymont recalls his family having a season subscription to the old Burt Reynolds Dinner Theatre from the time he was 6 years old. It was that early introduction to the arts that planted the seed for what was to come. 

A product of the Jupiter school system, McClymont was a sporty kid, inheriting his athletic ability from his father, a former hockey player turned sailor. His father owned one of the first full-service auto repair shops in town, Dave’s Truck and Auto, which was located where Blackbird Modern Asian now is. “That was back when Jupiter was a tiny little saltwater fishing and surfing town,” says McClymont, now 53.

He worked at his dad’s shop so he could buy his first surfboard and joined Island Water Sports’ surf team and Jupiter High’s surf team. He eventually landed a Billabong sponsorship, and surfing took him all over the country as a teen, competing against some of the greats, including Kelly and Sean Slater. But since pro surfing is never a certain career plan, he enrolled in Palm Beach State College as a finance major.

After graduation, he worked as an investment advisor at UBS in Fort Lauderdale before deciding to take a year off to play golf and rethink his career path. He joined the team at Bear Lakes Country Club in West Palm Beach, working his way up over the next 15 years to clubhouse manager and assistant general manager. In 2010, he landed at Loggerhead Marinelife Center as CEO. 

That’s where he caught the eye of Dale McNulty, former board president of the Palm Beach Symphony, who was conducting a nationwide search for a new CEO at the time. In October 2013, McClymont stepped into the role. 

“To be able to work for the symphony and make a difference in my backyard was incredibly humbling and inspiring,” MClymont says. “[McNulty] really gave me the opportunity to come in and build off the relationships I had from being in this community my entire life, both personally and professionally.”  

David McClymont hangs out along the Intracoastal near Coral Cove Park. Photo by Nick Mele
David McClymont hangs out along the Intracoastal near Coral Cove Park. Photo by Nick Mele

When McClymont joined the team, the symphony was operating without a budget, was spending more than it made, and had only one part-time employee. The new CEO wasted no time changing that, working with the board to form a finance committee, engage an auditing firm, write a budget, sign sponsorships, and hire the right staff. Within a year and a half, the symphony broke even—and has been profitable ever since. “We had basically gone from red to black, and we never turned back,” McClymont says, noting that revenue has grown to $4.2 million. 

He credits his staff with the symphony’s success. “There becomes this infectious cycle when you surround yourself with people who are hardworking, smart, committed, kind, ethical, have strong character, and believe in the mission that a rising tide lifts all boats,” he says. “Every- body needs to be playing the same sheet of music in an orchestrated fashion or you’re not going to be successful.” 

Focusing on the symphony’s three pillars—engage, educate, and entertain—McClymont and his team made shows more accessible to a wider audience by offering tiered pricing including $10 student and teacher tickets. Over the past decade, the organization has also educated close to 70,000 local students by hosting free children’s concerts at the Kravis Center, in-class coaching sessions, and master classes. Additionally, the symphony distributes complimentary tickets to students from Title I schools in the area and awards multiple scholarships annually. In the past year alone, the symphony has donated 150 instruments to help young musicians reach their full potential.

“The only way we stand a chance to sustain this beautiful art form for the next couple of hundred years is if we continue to get into schools at an early age,” McClymont says.

As he readies for the symphony’s fiftieth anniversary season, which begins in November, the father of four is taking some time to enjoy his hometown. The avid sportsman frequents pockets that have remained largely unchanged over the last 30 or so years, like the Jupiter Inlet, DuBois Park, and a remote fishing spot in Jupiter Farms where he likes to take his 12-year-old son, Mason. “There’s something in my veins with Jupiter,” he says. “Even with all the growth, it’s such an incredible town.

Golden Anniversary 

The Palm Beach Symphony’s fiftieth season kicks off in mid-November, and McClymont says music director and maestro Gerard Schwarz has attracted top-notch guest artists to celebrate the milestone. Pianists Yefim Bronfman, Vladimir Feltsman, Emanuel Ax, and Ignat Solzhenitsyn and violinists Akiko Suwanai and Pinchas Zukerman will perform six solo concerts; the symphony will also present four world symphony premieres by eminent composers. For tickets to the Masterworks Series at the Kravis Center (individual tickets go on sale September 5), click here.

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