Baltimore Symphony Orchestra Announces Strategic Expansion of Artistic Team

Baltimore Symphony Orchestra Announces Strategic Expansion of Artistic Team

Extending and Establishing New Positions to Support Artistic Excellence and Community Engagement

September 10, 2020 – In anticipation of a new digital concert series to be launched this fall, the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra (BSO) announces the strategic expansion of the orchestra’s artistic team through three roles with immediate effect: the one-year extension of Nicholas Hersh as Associate Conductor and the two-year appointments of both Jonathan Rush as Assistant Conductor and Wordsmith as Artistic Partner.

“With a multi-year agreement with our musicians now in place, we must turn our focus to the heart of our multi-year strategic plan – ensuring that the art and education we deliver are of the highest quality, engaging our audience and donors, and serving our community in ways that are equally surprising and inspiring,” said BSO President and CEO Peter Kjome. “We are thrilled to retain Nicholas Hersh for another year, ensuring his leadership on and off the podium in the curation of our digital series this fall. We are equally thrilled that Jonathan and Wordsmith will lend their unique talents and voices to the development and realization of the BSO’s artistic and community programs.”

Already established as one of the organization’s key artistic leaders, Associate Conductor Nicholas Hersh was appointed to the position of Assistant Conductor in 2014 and promoted to Associate Conductor in 2016. Hersh has led many of the BSO’s most innovative projects, including BSO Pulse, a series of collaborations between indie artists and the Orchestra. The Baltimore Symphony Youth Orchestras (BSYO) and Family series have also thrived under Hersh’s leadership, including a fast pivot to online participation spearheaded by Hersh in March. Through this one-year contract extension, Hersh will continue to provide artistic direction to the 248-member BSYO as well as solidify his leadership role in the BSO’s new digital series – a series requiring the direction of multiple, responsibly-distanced cohorts of BSO musicians as well as the curation of exciting, never-before-seen, behind the scenes content. In addition to being heavily featured on the podium, this series will also showcase Hersh’s skills for new arrangements and informative conversation.

“It continues to be a privilege to make music with the BSO, and I am pleased to be joining my new colleagues and old friends as we create imaginative musical experiences for our fellow Marylanders to enjoy safely during these challenging times,” said Associate Conductor Nicholas Hersh. “As a part of these digital concerts, we will be featuring the music of several composers new to the Meyerhoff stage, representing an important step towards a more thorough inclusion of under-represented musical voices in our repertoire.”

At just 25 years of age, Jonathan Rush has already gained the attention of the orchestral world. A former student of Music Director Marin Alsop, Rush served as the Conducting Fellow of the BSYO under Nicholas Hersh in 2017 and made his BSO conducting debut during the most recent 2019-20 season as part of the BSO’s Symphony in the City series, a performance in which it was said he had “a phenomenal sense of the dynamic architecture of a piece of music: every note was shaped with intention,” by The Baltimore Sun. In his role as Assistant Conductor, Rush will support Nicholas Hersh in conducting the BSO’s digital series and serve frequently as a cover conductor.

“It’s truly an honor and a dream come true to work with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra!” said Assistant Conductor Jonathan Rush. “Beginning with my graduate studies at the Peabody Institute, Baltimore has become a second home for me. I’m excited to use this opportunity to really connect with the Baltimore community, but especially to connect with the minority musicians in our community. It is my mission to ensure that orchestras across the U.S. embrace diversity in all capacities. I’m so excited to be a part of the BSO, and to take part in their progression into the future of classical music!”

Identified by The Baltimore Sun as “one of Baltimore’s best musicians in 2020,” Wordsmith is a Baltimore-based rapper, musician and entrepreneur who aims to provide strong motivational messaging through hip-hop. Making his debut BSO appearance as narrator in 2017, Wordsmith has partnered in special events such as the BSO’s 2018 Gala as well as in special artistic projects such as All Together: A Global Ode to Joy, the BSO and Marin Alsop’s collaboration with Carnegie Hall to reimagine Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony. Although the BSO’s full performances of a reimagined Beethoven’s Ninth were among this spring’s COVID-19 informed cancellations, Wordsmith joined in a special virtual performance of this project featuring his new text re-written as a 21st-century call for unity, justice and empowerment.

Over the course of his two-year appointment as Artistic Partner, Wordsmith will collaborate with the BSO in at least two, full-orchestra artistic projects inclusive of original composition of text, narration, acting and/or hosting. A composition of a new English text translation from the perspective of a Black soldier during the civil rights movement to accompany Igor Stravinsky’s The Soldier’s Tale is tentatively planned to premiere in the 2020-21 season, with an additional project under discussion for the 2021-22 season. In addition, Wordsmith will serve in a key advisory capacity, supporting the BSO’s institutional recommitment to DEI with an emphasis on inclusion and representation in artistic planning and programming; and, supporting the meaningful expansion of BSO education and engagement programs, including active participation in workshops, masterclasses and school visits.

“I’m excited to continue my work with the BSO and become an official member of the family,” said Artistic Partner Wordsmith. “I look forward to creating, reinterpreting and hosting impactful concerts while working on programs to encourage diversity within the classical community.”

“Throughout my tenure with the BSO we have sought to make the orchestra a cornerstone of the city’s cultural life, an organization deeply rooted in the diverse communities that make Baltimore the extraordinary place that it is,” said Music Director Marin Alsop. “Now, in my final season as Music Director, I am proud to see our commitment to these communities further strengthened by extending our relationships with all three of these incredible musicians and emerging talents. I am excited to continue to work with Nicholas Hersh, Jonathan Rush and Wordsmith, though it will all be virtual in the near-term, as we work together to bring more diverse voices to the BSO’s programs.” Access and inclusion have been a hallmark of Alsop’s 14 seasons with the orchestra. Among her many achievements, in 2008 she founded OrchKids, a year-round during and after school program designed to create social change and nurture promising futures for youth in Baltimore City neighborhoods. The program first started in 2008 with 30 first graders and today includes over 2,000 children throughout 10 Baltimore City schools.

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About the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra

For over a century, the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra (BSO) has been recognized as one of America’s leading orchestras and one of Maryland’s most significant cultural institutions. Under the direction of Music Director Marin Alsop, the orchestra is internationally renowned and locally admired for its innovation, performances, recordings and educational outreach initiatives including OrchKids.

The Baltimore Symphony Orchestra performs annually for more than 275,000 people throughout the State of Maryland. Since 1982, the BSO has performed at the Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall in Baltimore, and since 2005, with the opening of The Music Center at Strathmore in North Bethesda, MD, the BSO became the nation’s first orchestra performing its full season of classical and pops concerts in two metropolitan areas. More information about the BSO can be found at BSOmusic.org.

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