Philadelphia Orch appoints first African-American woman

Philadelphia Orch appoints first African-American woman


norman lebrecht

June 16, 2020

Press release:

The Philadelphia Orchestra is pleased to announce the appointment of Nicole Jordan as principal librarian beginning in the 2020–21 season. The position will bring her back to Philadelphia, where she was raised and began her career as The Philadelphia Orchestra’s library fellow from 2008 to 2011. Jordan will be the first African-American woman to join the Orchestra as a full-time member.

“We are beyond excited to welcome Nicole Jordan back to our Orchestra family,” said Music Director Yannick Nézet-Séguin. “Nicole will be an invaluable partner to me and my colleagues on the stage, and those in the administration, as we look to the future of The Philadelphia Orchestra. This is a critical and influential role in the Orchestra, and Nicole was deeply impressive throughout our lengthy audition process, from her knowledge of the repertoire to her inspiring view of what her role can and will be.”



  • Paul Dawson says:

    Am I alone in feeling that this should not be a matter of pride, but a matter of shame that over the entire history of the orchestra they have not, until now, found an African-American woman deemed worthy of full-time appointment?

  • Ionut says:

    This is pathetic. It’s an image boosting move due to the recent protests. Why didn’t we read such news years ago. Or a couple of weeks ago, at least. It is good that it is happening, but it is forced equality, as is the rececent trend with female conductors. All of these should be normal, not newsworthy.

    • John Koen says:

      Ms. Jordan’s appointment is the result of a months-long audition process which continued and was concluded during the COVID19 lockdown. The timing of the announcement was probably influenced by current events in the U.S., as of course space was given to the George Floyd murder and protests.

    • James says:

      Consider that you assume that she’s not qualified. Any particular reason for that?

    • Bruce says:

      What makes you sure it is “forced equality” and not based on merit?

      Agree that “all of these should be normal, not newsworthy.” Well… as they become more normal, they will become less newsworthy. Remember when gay marriages were a front-page event? Now they don’t even make the news unless they involve celebrities, just like “normal” (ahem) marriages. Be patient and recognize that this is the early stages of a process.

      Also please recognize that females have no monopoly on being mediocre conductors 😛

  • Freddynyc says:

    Unless I’m mistaken there has only been one African American orchestra member appointed in it’s long history and it’s a violinist who’s still with the orchestra – but was hired during the early 70s during the Ormandy years……

    • John Koen says:

      We had 3 African-Americans until Henry Scott, double bass, retired a couple of years ago. He did overlap with Joseph Conyers, Assistant Principal double bass. Renard Edwards, violist, was the first, in the 70s, and Booker Rowe, violinist.

  • In case some of you are wondering, in the States, many orchestras have the librarians as members of the orchestra, not the staff. They get equal salaries and benefits as those who play in the ensembles.

    • drummerman says:

      Quite correct – they are covered by the same collective bargaining agreement as the orchestra.

    • Gaffney Feskoe says:

      Yes, that was the case in Boston. In fact at least one one assistant librarian had played in the orchestra.

    • Bruce says:

      And appropriately so. They have a major impact on the orchestra’s preparation process before the first rehearsal, e.g. getting the parts for a new piece to the musicians in a timely fashion.

  • George Ferencz says:

    Eugene Ormandy, February 1970: “In the past, I think most good Negro musicians naturally picked up the saxophone, trumpet or drums–instruments that were good for popular and jazz music. I don’t think that Negro musicians were musically ready until comparatively recently to play other kinds of music. Now the doors are opening for them, as they are in other parts of culture. They won’t be stopped anymore because of their color. Next season, we will have a Negro violist, and in a few years, I think 10 to 20 per cent of all symphonies will have them. Anyway, to me color isn’t anything. Just pick up your instrument and play for me. You’ll tell me more about yourself than you could in three hours of talking.”

    • Gaffney Feskoe says:

      One of Dvorak’s American friends was the black American singer Henry Burleigh. Burleigh became Dvorak’s personal assistant and was know as an excellent singer.

  • Wiseguy says:

    The widespread enforced use of affirmative action hiring has cast suspicion on all black employees as being affirmative action hires, and not merit hires. That’s why affirmative action is so corrosive to our society and unjust to everyone involved in the workplace.

    • MacroV says:

      You may be right, but Philly has long had a reputation of Curtis affirmative action, Cleveland CIM affirmative action, and Vienna “being son of a member” affirmative action (and probably the Hochschule, not to mention not being a woman). I hope you’re equally concerned about affirmative action in those areas.

  • John Porter says:

    What’s next here, a discussion about whites being discriminated against? Affirmative action was necessary and still is necessary and still will be necessary until discrimination ends. And yes, of course, anytime there is anything done to address systemic racism, the racists decry a lowering of standards.

  • Philip Smith says:

    Nicole is a very attractive woman as well as brilliant!

  • Omar Little says:

    I also know how to put my pants on one leg at a time. Does that get me a posting in the idiot hall of fame known as the classical music industry described by Slipped Disc?

    Shame on you unions, shame on your orchestras and players committee, and shame on consumers who don’t demand these changes.

    Sanskrit and Classical Music…the things that we’ll find in the 2050 timecapsule of what the past looked like.