Black Pearl Chamber Orchestra’s Jeri Lynne Johnson on what it takes to initiate change

Posted on: July 13, 2022

Jeri Lynne Johnson conducts the Philadelphia-based Black Pearl Chamber Orchestra, which she founded in 2008.

“Jeri Lynne Johnson was enchanted when she attended her first orchestra performance at age seven,” and set her sights on becoming a conductor, reports Julianne Pepitone in Monday’s (7/11) MSNBC. Johnson became “something not typically seen on an orchestra stage: a young Black woman. She went on to build an impressive resume…. In 2005 … Johnson was one of three finalists for a conducting job. She didn’t get it… The small regional orchestra reached out to offer feedback….‘We loved your conducting … but … you just don’t look like what our audience expects the maestro to look like.’ Johnson was stunned…. A quiet rage took hold…. ‘I decided, I’m going to fix this problem,’ … Johnson said…. The answer? The Black Pearl Chamber Orchestra, which Johnson founded in Philadelphia in 2008 … recruiting talented and diverse musicians who trained at top music conservatories…. The orchestra has received raves from critics [and] is active in community engagement…. For Johnson, Black Pearl exists because of that spark of rage. She said she encourages women in all fields not to shy away from it. Instead, it’s about channeling the emotion to initiate change…. ‘Emotions … can be a source of power if you channel them.”