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Taking the Lead

Produced by Karen Smyles


Jeri Lynne Johnson is the Founding Music Director of the Black Pearl Chamber Orchestra (BPCO). Maestra Johnson began conducting during her doctoral studies in music theory and history at the University of Chicago. While a student in Chicago, Ms. Johnson was awarded the 1998 Jorge Mester Conducting Scholarship to attend the Aspen Music Festival and since then her conducting teachers and mentors have included Sir Simon Rattle, Marin Alsop and Daniel Barenboim among others. Soon after, Ms. Johnson was engaged by the Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia and served as that ensemble's assistant conductor from 2000-2004.

A recipient of many civic, community and artistic honors, including a 2010 British American Project Fellow, 2010 Philly 360 Creative Ambassador by the Greater Philadelphia Tourism and Marketing Corporation, and a 2009 Leeway Transformation Award, Ms. Johnson has been featured in numerous magazines and newspapers as well as television and radio shows including 20/20 and the "Tavis Smiley Show" on NPR and was heralded as one of today's leading women conductors on the NBC Today Show alongside prominent woman conductors Marin Alsop and Joann Falletta. 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.

Friday Arts spoke with Johnson at The Baptist Temple on the campus of Temple University. She spoke about how she first discovered classical music and later founded the Black Pearl Chamber Orchestra. The orchestra began in 2008 and is made up of a diverse group of highly accomplished musicians and we visited with them as they prepared for a performance.



Online Extra: Temple Performing Arts Center

The Temple Performing Arts Center, located on the campus of Temple University is a historically significant building. Executive Director, Charles Bethea shares its history and how it has been transformed into one of Philadelphia's most exciting performance venues.