How I Did It: Orchestra Founder Jeri Lynne Johnson Breaks Racial Boundaries

Musician and entrepreneur created own opportunities after adversity

Jeri Lynne Johnson, Founder, Philadelphia's Black Pearl Chamber Orchestra

Jeri Lynne Johnson, founder of the Black Pearl Chamber Orchestra in Philadelphia, decided to fill a void in the classical music industry when it came to black women. A graduate of Wellesley College, Johnson traveled the world working as a conductor, composer and pianist, only to return to the U.S. and be rejected by major orchestras.

“When I came back to America I was trying to get jobs with bigger orchestras, but they were not interested. One orchestra told me they like my conducting and the board thought I had great ideas, but they didn’t know how to market me,” Johnson told Madame Noire.

“When I asked him for clarity, the guy on the search committee basically said, ‘You just don’t look like what our audience would expect a conductor to look like.’ That’s when I founded my own orchestra.”

Writer Makula Dunbar caught up with Johnson to talk about her plight to create her own opportunities, expose other minority women to orchestras and a different genre of music and making strides in a lane some mainstream orchestras thought she didn’t fit into.

Read more at Madame Noire …

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