Chicago’s new CEO is 29

The Chicago Sinfonietta has named Blake-Anthony Johnson as Chief Executive Officer, starting next month.

A professional cellist, he arrives from the Louisville Orchestra where he has been Director of Learning & Community. He’s just 29 years old.

He said: ‘I am thrilled to be part of the Chicago Sinfonietta team. Chicago Sinfonietta is a national treasure, that over the past 32 seasons has contributed a great deal to our field and the city of Chicago. The vision of Maestro Paul Freeman has created an incredible organization that has been unmatched in the representation and celebration of equity, diversity and inclusion in a meaningful way. It is a legacy and tradition that I’m honored to continue with our amazing musicians, staff, board, and Music Director Mei-Ann Chen.’


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  • I hope he is up to the challenge of running this wonderful organization in the “new normal”

    The orchestra has come a long way to become a fixture in Chicago’s crowded arts scene and now has it’s own identity with a loyal following and a dedicated board of directors.

  • He should come back to this positions when he is 59.

    Meanwhile he should find a real job like putting eggs in place at tesco, since anyway all people will do in the next 30 years is go to buy essential and sit home and complain about young people ruining our lives.

    • Hey grumpy. You do know that most places in Europe and the US are opening up. And live concerts are likely to restart in the Autumn.

  • We wish him well but one wonders why they hired an executive director with no executive director experience? His profile on LinkedIn indicates 10 months working in Louisville and nothing else. The fact that he is an accomplished cellist has nothing to do with being the ED. We wish him well.

    • The ensemble’s budget is less than $2 million; he’ll probably be the only full-time employee (meaning, working a 40-hour week).

    • My thoughts exactly… it almost feels like they didn’t care much about finding the right candidate for this position in terms of experience and qualifications. They were basically looking for someone who fits their Afro-American narrative and is young enough so this story could be used as a media gimmick.

      • Robert, were you on the search committee? Are you on the Chicago Sinfonietta’s board? Are you a member of the orchestra? Have you been to a concert? I take it that you actually don’t know shit about the hiring and qualifications of their new CEO, so it think it would serve everyone, and most importantly yourself best, if you keep your ignorant opinions to yourself. I can guarantee you that the new CEO, the organization, nor the industry itself cares at all how you “feel” over the matter.

  • And a tip of the hat to Jim Hirsch, the outgoing CEO, who has kept this boat afloat for quite a few seasons.

    • Agree with Mr. Gingrich. He did a fine job.

      I would note, however, that the person who handled this ED search has had a less than stellar track record in this area. Witness the sudden departure of the newly-hired CEO at the Louisville Orchestra last year and the debacle at the old Brooklyn Philharmonic, about 5 or 6 years ago. But we wish him well.

  • If they have equity, diversity, and inclusion, what else would they need? Nothing else matters in today’s arts world.

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