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.
âWhen 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 didnât know how to market me,â Johnson told Madame Noire.
âWhen I asked him for clarity, the guy on the search committee basically said, âYou just donât look like what our audience would expect a conductor to look like.â Thatâs when I founded my own orchestra.â
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.