Sinfonietta Taps First New Conductor Since Founding
By Alexander Hough in Arts & Entertainment on Aug 4, 2010 6:40PM
Photo from the Chicago Sinfonietta's website
The Sinfonietta was created in 1987 explicitly to provide minorities with opportunities in classical music, a business that's traditionally been a white men's club. The Sinfonietta has been diligent about maintaining diversity - according to a 2007 survey, it's the most diverse professional orchestra - and applies that ethos throughout the organization, from the leadership to the musicians to the repertoire's composers. The Sinfonietta boasts some impressive numbers: minorities make up 55% of orchestra members, 56% of board members, and 42% of staff. To contrast, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra hired its first and so far only full-time black musician, trumpeter Tage Larsen, in 2002.
Chen, born in Taiwan and a U.S. resident since 1989, is currently the assistant conductor of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra (which also has a female music director, Marin Alsop) and prior to that held the same position with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra. In 2005, she became the first woman to win the Malko International Conductors Competition. She begins a tenure as music director of the Memphis Symphony Orchestra this fall, a position she will hold concurrently with her job at the Sinfonietta.