ABOUT OUR PRESIDENT & CEO
Brett Batterson self-identifies as a New York born, midwestern-raised man with strong southern influences. Specifically, he was born in upstate New York, but his family moved to Davenport, Iowa when he was an infant. The strong influences come from a combined 22 years of living in the American south. In fact, Brett has lived in eleven different states, but Tennessee is the only one he has lived in twice and the state he has lived in the longest.
His professional life began as a Theatrical Scenic Designer and technician, working at such theatres as The Guthrie Theatre, Utah Shakespearean Festival, Idaho Summer Repertory Theatre, Chattanooga Theatre Centre and Theatre Midland.
For five years he owned a scenic studio in Chattanooga, creating scenery and exhibits for The Nashville Network, The Grand Ole Opry, Toyota, Honda of America, Chattanooga Regional History Museum, United States National Park Service, Tennessee Aquarium and many others.
In 1994, he took the position of Project Manager for the construction of the Detroit Opera House. As the opera house was getting ready to open, he was asked to manage the new facility, which is when he transitioned from being a theatre artist to being a theatre administrator. Eventually he was promoted to Chief Operating Officer of Michigan Opera Theatre, the owners of the Detroit Opera House.
Highlights of his time in Detroit include presenting The Three Tenors at historic Tiger Stadium which was the highest grossing concert in North American in 1999 with ticket sales exceeding $6M. In addition, Michigan Opera Theatre presented Andrea Bocelli in his first staged opera performance and commissioned the new American opera Margaret Garner, starring Denyce Graves and directed by Kenny Leon, with a libretto by Toni Morrison.
In 2004, Batterson was recruited to Chicago to run the national historic landmark Auditorium Theatre. While there, he created three city-wide festivals (The Miles Davis Festival, The Billy Strayhorn Festival and The Music+Movement Festival), saw the Auditorium host the National Football League (NFL) Draft in 2015, which was the first time that event was held outside of New York City in over 50 years, and staged the successful celebration of the Auditorium’s 125th birthday. Batterson also founded an arts camp for young people who have experienced the death of a parent (Hands Together, Heart to Art) and co-founded Enrich Chicago, a non-profit dedicated to diversifying arts leadership in Chicago.
Another call from a search firm brought him to Memphis, where he became President & CEO of the Orpheum Theatre Group on January 1, 2016. In this role, the theatre and its second facility, the Halloran Centre for Performing Arts & Education, has dramatically expanded its programming, bringing the best of Broadway, music, comedy and community events to its stages. Educationally, the organization has become a leader in the Mid-South through new programs such as Mending Hearts Camp (similar to Hearts to Art in Chicago – a camp for young people who have experienced the death of a parent), Camp SAY Across the USA - Memphis (a camp for young people who stutter), numerous story-telling and play-conceiving community programs and the expansion of the High School Musical Theatre Awards. Batterson also founded the Memphis Cultural Coalition, a roundtable of leaders in the arts and culture sector.
Guiding the Orpheum Theatre Group through the COVID pandemic, Brett was commended for creating a Broadway-themed mini-golf course on the stage of the Orpheum. Despite initial skepticism from some, mini-golf ran for 17 weeks and thus became the longest running show in Orpheum history.
In the community, Brett is an active Rotarian, having been a member of Chicago’s Rotary One before transferring to the Rotary Club of Memphis. He is a two-time Paul Harris Fellow and will become president of the Memphis club in 2024.
He is active with the Broadway League and is an Executive Committee member of the Independent Presenters Network (IPN), a consortium of 30+ presenters of Broadway touring shows around the United States.
In addition to the Rotary and IPN boards, he has, at various times, served on the boards of The League of Chicago Theatres, Illinois Presenters Network, Northside Presbyterian Church (Chattanooga), Grosse Pointe Memorial Church, and International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees Local 140 (a proud 30+ year member despite moving from labor to management). He is currently on the Advisory Boards of the Chicago Jazz Philharmonic, Ensemble Español Spanish Dance Theatre, and Giordano Dance Chicago.
Under Batterson’s leadership, and as a member of the IPN co-producing group, the Orpheum Theatre Group won its fourth Tony Award for The Band’s Visit in 2018 and was nominated for a fifth with Girl From the North Country in 2022. Other honors include being named Presenter of the Year by the North American Performing Arts Managers and Agents in 2017, a 2009 State Farm Embrace Life Award for founding Hands Together, Heart to Art, the 2016 Think Big Award presented by the Chicago Jazz Philharmonic, the inaugural Fifth Star Award from Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel in 2014 (on behalf of the Auditorium), and being recognized by New City News as one of the fifty most important people in Chicago Theatre from 2009 to 2015, ranking second on that bi-annual list in 2014. Brett is an Antoinette Perry (Tony) Award voter.
Batterson holds a B.A. degree from Augsburg University and a M.F.A. degree from Tulane University. He is married to author and photographer Veronica Randolph Batterson (veronica-batterson.pixels.com). They have two grown daughters and one beautiful granddaughter.