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Chicago Youth Symphony Orchestras taps Celebrated Arts Leader Jennie Oh Brown as next Executive Director

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Chicago Youth Symphony Orchestras (CYSO), one of the nation’s premier youth orchestra programs, founded in 1946 to provide music education and instrumental training of the highest quality, has announced Jennie Oh Brown as its next Executive Director. Working in tandem with CYSO’s leadership team, Brown will build on CYSO’s mission of inspiring personal excellence through music by identifying new relationships and educational and performance opportunities for CYSO’s young musicians. This work will also include expanding community partnerships to provide musical training and access in under-served communities throughout Chicago and increase CYSO’s profile as one of the nation’s cultural and musical gems. Brown joins Chicago Youth Symphony Orchestras full-time effective May 22, 2023. She succeeds Susan Lape, who led for five years and grew the organization exponentially, and departed in early 2023 to lead philanthropy at the Harris Theatre for Music and Dance.

A celebrated artist, arts administrator, educator, and visionary, Brown brings a wealth of experience and a wide-ranging skill set to her new position. Brown has most recently served as Artistic Director with Epiphany Center for the Arts, curating programs and concerts and developing educational programming throughout the landmark venue’s performance spaces. Brown previously served as Executive and Artistic Director of Ear Taxi Festival in 2021, founder, director, and faculty member of Credo Flute, and on faculty at Wheaton College and Elmhurst University. She is founder and director of Picosa chamber music collective, Artist-in-Residence at Epiphany Center for the Arts, and serves on the board of Chamber Music of America.

“CYSO has set a high bar for inspiring generations of young musicians and leaders,” said Brown. “Great music has the power to change culture and to heal spirits. It is more than beautiful sounds; We are creating citizens through this artistic life who are learning to lead, to encourage one another with empathy and kindness, and to serve the greater good. It is a true honor to have been selected as the next Executive Director, and I look forward to working with Music Director Allen Tinkham and the entire CYSO community to create an impact for years to come.”

In addition to her many administrative arts leadership positions, as a flutist, Brown has been an energizing and creative force in the field of classical music for more than 20 years in a broad range of contexts. As a recording artist, her solo album, Giantess, was featured in the Chicago Tribune’s Best classical albums of 2019: World premieres, historic revivals, and enticingly eclectic music (Howard Reich). In addition, as a CYSO alumni parent, she will bring a unique perspective on the impact and importance of the programming CYSO provides to young musicians.

“Jennie is a force within the Chicago and national music scene, and we are thrilled to officially announce her as our next Executive Director,” said CYSO Board Chair Ross Bricker. “We were seeking a collaborative, innovative, and inspiring individual as our next leader, and we look forward to growing and flourishing with Jennie’s background and expertise. I am confident that her vision and skillset will propel CYSO to new levels, ensure it remains a best-in-class program available to all, and bring the enormous benefits that CYSO provides to students throughout Chicagoland.”

Brown holds Doctor of Musical Arts and Master of Music in Performance, Repertoire, and Literature degrees and the Performers Certificate from the University of Rochester, Eastman School of Music, in Rochester, NY. She earned her Bachelor of Music degree from Northwestern University in Evanston, IL and is a graduate of the Interlochen Arts Academy. Brown is a member of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences and the diversity and inclusion and historical flutes committees of the National Flute Association.

Chicago Youth Symphony Orchestras’ Board of Directors retained KEES in 2022, and a comprehensive search was launched, attracting a talented and diverse pool of qualified leaders locally, domestically, and internationally. Leading the search efforts were Search Chair Brittany Viola (Former Attorney at Chapman and Cutler), Saurab Bhargava (Merge), Ross Bricker (Jenner & Block), Pamela Conroy, Bryan Miller (Leyden High Schools), Jennifer Myerberg (The Alvin & Louise Myerberg Family Foundation, Inc.), Angela O’Banion (Cook County Health), John Schladweiler (Schladweiler Associates, Inc., retired), and Hank Turner (Conagra Brands). Consultant Yoo-Jin Hong (SeventhAbove) also added to the Committee’s expertise. The Board of Directors ultimately selected Brown from a strong group of finalists that came from multiple sub-sectors in classical, youth music, and music education.

“Jennie brings a proven entrepreneurial spirit to the CYSO team,” said KEES President and CEO Heather Eddy. “She is a recognized and admired national leader and artist. Her energy and creativity will further CYSO’s mission to broader and deeper audiences. Congratulations to Jennie, the Board, and the entire CYSO community on this exciting hire.”


KEES (formerly Alford Executive Search) is a non-profit executive search firm that builds diverse teams with dynamic leaders in the non-profit and public sectors. A woman owned and operated firm, KEES offers a full array of non-profit consulting services, including executive search, leadership development, interim staffing, and HR support. For more information, please visit


With a rich history dating to 1946, Chicago Youth Symphony Orchestras (CYSO) is committed to educating, encouraging, and empowering student musicians so that they may pursue personal excellence both on and off the stage. Bringing together young musicians from diverse backgrounds in a collaborative environment that develops self-confidence, teamwork, and leadership, CYSO provides one of the most comprehensive music training programs in the country that inspires both musical and personal growth. To learn more, please visit

*Photo Credit: Forestt Strong Lafave


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