In 1987, the Chicago Sinfonietta was founded by Maestro Paul Freeman with a simple goal: to bind a professional orchestra to a set of values that include diversity, inclusion, and equity in the arts space.
“We are so honored to have received this incredible blessing from our beloved Founder, Maestro Paul Freeman, a champion of diversity, equity and inclusion,” said Chicago Sinfonietta Music Director Mei- Ann Chen. “He was way ahead of the country waking up to this very important subject.”
Today, Chen carries on this legacy. She is the second musical director of the Chicago Sinfonietta. She came on board in 2011, at a time when it was very rare to see a female conductor.
She admits it was an impossible dream.
“Even my parents tried to talk me out of it. I was a stubborn girl who thought to herself, if this is my calling, I’ll find the angels in my path to help me get there.
In 2008, the orchestra created what is now called the Freeman Fellowship Program, to develop young talents, such as Jherrard Hardeman. The Chicago Sinfonietta gave him his first opportunity to conduct his own composition at age 16, and this year he will launch his professional career. The CEO credits Chen.
“Not only was she a trailblazer, but she also makes sure it doesn’t stop with her. She’s an incredible force. We’re so lucky to have her,” says Blake-Anthony Johnson, President and CEO. from the direction of the Chicago Sinfonietta.
This weekend, the Chicago Sinfonietta opens its 35e season at Wentz Concert Hall in Naperville on Saturday.
“The greatest thing for me is giving it back to the community and impacting the next generation of musicians.”