CHICAGO — The new executive director of the Chicago Philharmonic Society is aiming to highlight diverse voices on stage and behind the scenes.
On stage at the Harris Theater, Scott Speck was fine-tuning a final rehearsal before their upcoming concert, Fanfare Chicago. Terell Johnson became the Philharmonic’s executive director last summer.
“Fanfare Chicago is a combination of two world premieres and an American premiere. We have the Pulitzer Prize and Grammy-winning composer Jennifer Higdon who will be premiering her mandolin concerto,” Johnson said.
Johnson added that many of the musicians are members of other organizations, representing the “arts ecosystem” of Chicago.
Johnson’s own musical journey started first with piano, then clarinet performance and now arts administration.
“I definitely want to show people that there’s no limits if you want to be on stage participating, if you want to be behind the scenes curating an organization, we definitely want to be as inclusive as possible. So I’m really privileged to be in this position to be an example of the change that’s possible,” Johnson said.
The Philharmonic was just awarded a $75,000 grant from the League of American Orchestras to work on ways on creating a more equitable culture in the arts at all levels.
“It’s an opportunity for composers of color to premiere new works and to be featured on our main subscription performances,” Johnson said.
The Philharmonic has a full spring calendar for 2022, including a one-night tribute to Aretha Franklin on May 29 with Broadway star Capathia Jenkins.
“My main priority is to make sure we’re connecting with the community, that we’re programming pieces that connect with our audiences directly that people feel welcome,” Johnson said.