Founder and Artistic Director of the Black Pearl Chamber Orchestra / first African-American woman to win an international conducting prize
Jeri Lynne Johnson is a graduate of Wellesley College and the University of Chicago. In 1998 she won the Jorge Mester Conducting Scholarship to attend the Aspen Music Festival and her conducting mentors have included Sir Simon Rattle, Marin Alsop and Daniel Barenboim. In 2005 Ms. Johnson made history as the first African-American woman to win an international conducting prize when she was awarded the Taki Concordia Conducting Fellowship. Since then, Ms. Johnson’s conducting engagements have included leading orchestras around the world including the Philadelphia Orchestra, the Bournemouth Symphony (UK), and the Weimar Staatskapelle in Germany whose illustrious past music directors include J.S. Bach, Franz Liszt and Richard Strauss. Her broad and eclectic musical tastes have allowed her to perform world-premieres of MacArthur Genius Grant winning classical composers as well as a ground-breaking collaboration at Carnegie Hall with rapper Jay Z, singer/songwriter Alicia Keys, and hip hop band The Roots.
In 2008 she established her own orchestra in Philadelphia, Black Pearl Chamber Orchestra, with some of the top musicians in the country from diverse cultures and ethnicities as a model for the 21st-century orchestra. Through Black Pearl, she pioneered a fresh new approach to community engagement that has been imitated and adopted by orchestras across the country. The world-class quality of her concert performances have earned Black Pearl numerous grants from the National Endowment for the Arts. And her innovative community engagement programs have made Black Pearl the only organization in the nation ever to win three prestigious Knight Foundation Arts Challenge grants.
Ms. Johnson was heralded as one of today’s leading young women conductors on the NBC Today Show and she has been featured in numerous magazines and newspapers as well as television and radio shows around the world including 20/20 and the “Tavis Smiley Show” on NPR. She is also civically engaged and sits on the Board of Directors of a number of organizations including Einstein Health Network, the Philadelphia Chapter of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Science (Grammy’s) and the Mayor’s Cultural Advisory Council.