Alumni Tribute: Byron Gustafson’s Lifetime of Music

Universities are challenged to show evidence they are achieving the lofty goals contained in their beautifully crafted mission statements. “Preparing students for lives of significance and service” is part of the North Park University mission statement. North Park University now pays its respects to one shining examples of success in achieving our mission.

Byron Gustafson passed away on November 22, 2010, at his home in New York City after a brave and dignified battle with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis. Gustafson graduated from North Park University in 1976 with a Bachelor of Arts in piano performance. His first professional appointment was at the auditorium Theatre Council in Chicago. He moved to New York in 1978 when he was hired by the artist management company ICM Artists. While at ICM he held a variety of positions, including Booking Representative, Manager, Vice President, Senior Vice President, Executive Vice President, and Managing Partner. He managed the touring activities of the world’s leading orchestras, including the St. Petersburg Philharmonic Orchestra, the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, the NHK Symphony, the Oslo Philharmonic, and the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields, as well as those of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, the Vienna Boys Choir and other famous groups.

As a manager Gustafson guided the careers of many distinguished artists, including violinist Midori, flutist James Galway, trumpeter Wynton Marsalis, violist Yuri Bashmet, and pianist Jeremy Denk. In 2006 Gustafson played a significant role in the creation of Opus 3 Artists, of which he was managing partner until his retirement in November 2009.

David V. Foster, President and CEO of Opus 3 Artists, states, “Byron Gustafson was well known, extremely well liked, and highly respected in the field of performing arts. During his long and fruitful career, he came to be closely associated with a number of world-renowned artists and performing ensembles. Byron also played a central role in fostering and developing the careers of many young artists and ensembles who, under his guidance, went on to major international careers in the performing arts. His role in the founding of Opus 3 Artists was critical. He is sorely missed by those of us who worked closely with him and knew him well.”

Gustafson took his love of music and performance into a life-long career of significant management support to the finest musicians in the world. During his career Gustafson remained loyal to North Park University, making possible performances and master classes at North Park by many of the artists in his portfolio.

The Association of Performing Arts Presenters honored Gustafson with the 2010 Fan Taylor Distinguished Service Award for exemplary service to the field of professional presenting.

Elizabeth Buccheri, assistant conductor at the Lyric Opera of Chicago, senior lecturer at Northwestern University’s Bienen School of Music, and a faculty member at North Park University from 1969 to 2000 writes, “Byron Gustafson, a North Park piano student of mine in the ‘70’s, was a graduate of whom North Park could be extremely proud. He rose to the top in the competitive field of arts management and was beloved by all who knew him. As a friend, he was loyal, honest, and fun-loving. I will forever mourn his passing.”

Friends and colleagues, including a delegation of six North Park University alumni, gathered at Jazz at Lincoln Center, on Columbus Circle in New York City, to honor the memory of Gustafson. The memorial service was designed by two of Byron’s artists, Wynton Marsalis and Midori, with the participation of Judith Jamison and dancers Renee Robinson and Matthew Rushing (Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre), and comments by David V. Foster, President of Opus 3 Artists, and Gustafson’s partner of 26 years, Gustave Fleury.

Charles Peterson C'73 is the dean of University faculty, executive director of the Center for Scandinavian Studies, and a professor of Communication Arts

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