Jeri Lynne Johnson

2005 Fellow

  • Music Director, Black Pearl Chamber Orchestra

Jeri Lynne Johnson is the Founder and Music Director of Philadelphia’s newest classical music ensemble, the Black Pearl Chamber Orchestra (BPCO). Based in Philadelphia, the BPCO is dedicated to creating excellence by reflecting the cultural diversity of the community in its artists onstage. Through the creative use of technology, encouraging audience participation and creating unique artistic collaborations with the city’s most prominent institutions, the BPCO promises to engage the entire community and take the audience beyond spectatorship to participation in the artistic experience.  Her unique approach to the music and her warm embrace of new audiences has set a new standard for creating diversity for orchestral ensembles.  Her last concert was praised by the Philadelphia Inquirer as “relaxed yet celebratory” by David Patrick Stearns who commented that   “ Haydn’s adagio movement [in Symphony #44] shows the composer writing something of a melody without end – and one you don’t want to end – that conductor Johnson paced with particularly poetic skill. ”

She 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 (COP) and served as that ensemble’s assistant conductor from 2000-2004.  Her debut in The Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts won high praise from The Philadelphia Inquirer:  “her Eine Kleine Nachtmusik…was bright and bouncy and smartly shaped.  The Schubert German Dance No. 1 in C major was energetic…But where Johnson made the biggest impression was in the Mahler.  She started with just the right tempo…then, she explored fluidity to its most emotional ends”.

A recipient of many civic, community and artistic honors, including being named a 2011 Woman of Distinction by the Philadelphia Business Journal and a Creative Connector by Leadership Philadelphia, a 2010 British American Project Fellow, 2010 Philly 360 Creative Ambassador by the Greater Philadelphia Tourism and Marketing Corporation, a 2010 Honoree in Arts and Culture for The Power Shift 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.

Learn more about Jeri at