Music director Stephen Heyde leaves behind legacy of integrity, humility

Stephen Heyde retires after being with Baylor since 1984. Photo courtesy of Baylor University

By Rachel Chiang | Reporter

Stephen Heyde, the Mary Franks Thompson professor of orchestral studies and conductor-in-residence, announced his retirement in a press release on Tuesday after being one of only two permanent conductors of the Baylor Symphony Orchestra since 1946. Heyde’s position will be succeeded by Miguel Harth-Bedoya, who most recently was the director of orchestral studies at the University of Nebraska at Omaha.

Fort Worth graduate student Trey Thompson said Heyde’s retirement will be difficult for the orchestral program to move forward from and commended the impact and legacy he will be leaving behind.

“It’s a great loss to the School of Music and the university as a whole to have him retire,” Thompson said. “The man is a genius, and his wealth of knowledge is unrivaled. Also, the Baylor Symphony would not be what it is today without him.”

Thompson said in the world of orchestral teaching, there has been a history of tyrannical and berating conducting, but Heyde has spent his time at Baylor changing that.

“He teaches from a place of encouragement, and never from berating or belittling,” Thompson said. “That’s not to say he won’t let me know when I’ve done something wrong. I’ve always appreciated his sense of respect for other people and his ability to encourage students to own their music and to make it good, not because he’s demanding it, but because he sees the value in the music and he wants the students to see that too. He gives his students a remarkable sense of independence, which is not true of every professor in the School of Music. Mr. Heyde does not want to turn out little versions of himself; he wants to cause each person to be the best version of themselves.”

Heyde brings a sense of professionalism in everything he does, Thompson said. He also said Heyde’s commitment and integrity paired with his experience has shaped his own character and life since studying under Heyde during his time as an undergraduate student.

Thompson said if he had to boil it down to one thing he will take away from his time studying with Heyde, it is to do everything with “integrity with humility.”

As for Heyde, he shared some insight into why he chose to retire, and what his time at Baylor has meant to him.

“There’s some things happening because I’m of a certain age — my eyesight is not as good, my energy level is not what it used to be,” Heyde said. “I never wanted to put into my students or give them anything that wasn’t my best.”

On top of running the orchestras at Baylor, Heyde also conducts for the Waco Symphony. He said it has been the best of both worlds being able to work with professionals while also teaching and inspiring students at Baylor. Although he is not retiring from the Waco Symphony yet, he said working for both programs has contributed to his decision to retire due to the amount of time it consumed.

“That also has added to my concerns about flighting energy,” Heyde said. “Although, I will tell you, anytime I get in front of an orchestra I’m giving it my all.”

Under his direction, the program has traveled and performed internationally and won numerous awards, including the American Prize in Orchestral Performance for five out of the last six years.

“It’s never been for me about the awards,” Heyde said. “It’s always been about the music. And to have an orchestra at Baylor that can play most of the orchestral repertoire at a very high level has been a joy, and also has been a great service to the university.”

Heyde said he did not accomplish all that he did by himself, and he is grateful for all the help and support he has received to get to this point.

“It’s just been my great pleasure,” Heyde said. “I thank Baylor, I thank the environment that’s created here by the whole university community and certainly the administration.”