The first African American executive to guide a nationally renowned orchestra, in May 2020 Blake-Anthony Johnson was named Chief Executive Officer at the age of 29 of the award-winning Chicago Sinfonietta, an organization acclaimed as a cultural leader in the field and a powerful champion of diversity, equity and inclusion. A civically engaged leader who sits on the Steering Committee of Chicago Musical Pathways Initiative, he is also a champion of arts education, and is a member of the Faculty at Roosevelt University’s Chicago Conservatory of Performing Arts. Additionally, Mr. Johnson is a Trustee and Advisory Board Member for several organizations across the country that focus on, criminal justice reform, healthcare, eliminating intergenerational poverty.
A former professional cellist who has performed with ensembles such as the New World Symphony, Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, and Nashville Symphony in the US, Chineke! Orchestra in the UK, and Poland’s Sinfonietta Polonia, as well as at music festivals including Spoleto Music Festival USA, Brevard Music Festival and Aix-en-Provence Music Festival, Mr. Johnson’s focus on arts administration and education began while he was a music student at Vanderbilt University’s Blair School of Music.
During his junior year at Blair School of Music in 2010-11, Mr. Johnson founded and served as Program Director of Classical Cake, a free concert series aimed at introducing first time audience members to a diverse spectrum of music in concerts that ranged from salon size performances with local artists to partnerships with large ensembles on tour in the Nashville area. Following the success of Classical Cake, he expanded his concept, creating the Music Education for Youth Initiative, serving as Founding Director and fostering meaningful exchange between the Nashville Symphony, W.O Smith School, and Vanderbilt University students with underprivileged youth within the Nashville community for several years. Later positions include serving as Assistant Personnel Manager of the Spoleto Music Festival USA and recently, as Director of Learning and Community for Louisville Orchestra, and as an Arts Advisory Council Member in Louisville, Kentucky. Other organizations with which Mr. Johnson has worked in the area of arts education and outreach include Carnegie Hall’s Weill Music Institute, El Sistema, and the Academia Filarmónica de Medellín.
A native of Atlanta, Georgia, Blake-Anthony Johnson holds a MM from Cleveland State University, a BM from Vanderbilt University, Blair School of Music, and a certificate from Manhattan School of Music in Orchestral Performance. Further professional training includes participation in the Sphinx Organization’s two year arts leadership program LEAD (Leaders in Excellence, Arts & Diversity, 2019-present), workshops in education, community engagement and collective bargaining at The League of American Orchestra’s 2018 Conference and a Certificate of Study in American Law from the University of Pennsylvania.