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Mei-Ann Chen

Chicago Sinfonietta Extends Mei-Ann Chen’s Music Director contract

The Board of the Chicago Sinfonietta has unanimously elected to extend Music Director Mei-Ann Chen’s contract through the 2028-29 season, for another four years. Maestra Chen has served the Chicago area as Music Director of the 36-year-old award-winning cultural leader and powerful champion of diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging since 2011. During her tenure as the orchestra’s second Music Director, she has continually redefined orchestra programming and strongly positioned the organization at the forefront of bold, innovative initiatives that have helped to build bridges with all sectors of the community and industry attention to the organization.

“We are pleased to announce Mei-Ann Chen’s continuing collaboration as Music Director of Chicago Sinfonietta,” stated Board Chair Jim Weidner and Vice Chair Genhi Givings Bailey. “Our Founder and first Music Director Paul Freeman stated when she was selected to succeed him, ‘I fully support the selection of Mei-Ann Chen to succeed me as the Music Director of the Chicago Sinfonietta. She is an amazing talent and a real presence on the podium. I couldn’t ask for a better person to continue our work.’ we couldn’t agree more. From Day One, Maestra Chen has embodied our mission of championing BIPOC artists, women composers, and diversity, equity, and inclusion in her work, both on and off the podium. Her work, her support of our musicians, and her creativity have brought both national and international attention to our organization. We are delighted that she will continue to contribute to our mission as we begin our new chapter in our new home.”

“I am very honored to continue to build on the wonderful collaboration with Chicago Sinfonietta as we make the historic move into our new home at Chicago’s Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University,” stated Maestra Chen. “Through our distinctive programming championing for underrepresented musicians and our continued efforts highlighting women composers, along with our impactful Freeman Fellowship, which has launched more than a dozen young conductors into the field worldwide, Chicago Sinfonietta has created global ripple effects, changing the way the art of classical music and those who create/perform in this artform are perceived, experienced, and enjoyed.

“I very much look forward to furthering Chicago Sinfonietta’s awesome mission and contributing to the legacy of our beloved late Maestro Freeman shining even brighter in the years to come.”

During Chen’s tenure, among the awards the Sinfonietta has received are a 2022 Donne Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Champions Award, Award 2021 Arts Projects Award Grant from the National Endowment for the Arts for its new Artist in Residence Program, and a 2020 League of American Orchestras Catalyst Award for Institutional Development and Anti-racism Training, a MacArthur Award for Creative and Effective Institutions – the “genius award” for non-profit organizations, the Spirit of Innovation Award by the Chicago Innovation Awards, an ASCAP Award for Adventurous Programming, and a First Place Award for Programming of Contemporary Music. Chicago Sinfonietta was also named “The city’s hippest orchestra” by the Chicago Tribune. Chen and the orchestra have also released two acclaimed recordings on the Cedille Records label: “Project W – Works by Diverse Women Composers”, and “Delights and Dances.

Hand in hand with Chen’s innovative programming is the organization’s work in accessibility and inclusivity. Further enhancing the scope of the organizations’ work in this area, the Sinfonietta has collaborated with KultureCity® in a new initiative to provide as accommodating and positive experience possible for all individuals with sensory issues, no matter their age or ability.

Sensory sensitivities or challenges with sensory regulation are often experienced by individuals with autism, dementia, PTSD, and other similar conditions. One of the major barriers for these individuals is sensitivity to over stimulation and noise, which can be a major part of the events The orchestra is now officially Sensory InclusiveTM certified, and all staff and volunteers of the organization are trained by leading medical professionals on how to recognize those with sensory needs and how to handle a sensory overload situation.

Prior to attending a Sinfonietta concert or event, families and individuals can download the free KultureCity® App where one can view what sensory features are available and where they can access them. These tools include KultureCity® Sensory Bags, equipped with noise-canceling headphones (provided by Puro Sound Labs), fidget tools, verbal cue cards, and KCVIP lanyards. To learn more, visit Accessibility – Chicago Sinfonietta.

A tenured orchestra and acclaimed cultural leader that champions diversity, equity, and inclusion by creating community through curated symphonic experiences, Chicago Sinfonietta is a source of community through music, ensuring and inspiring a continued investment in diversity and inclusivity in the genre of classical music to promote fairness and equity. Recognized as groundbreaking, dynamic and daring, with core values built around being culturally responsive and advocates of inclusivity in all aspects of the 36-year-old organization’s work, Chicago Sinfonietta’s unrelenting commitment to being at the forefront of innovation drives its high standard of symphonic experiences. CS takes pride in leading by example with immersive audience engagement activities, impactful career development, education, and extensive community outreach programs.

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