Penn State to offer free gem: Black Pearl

Anyone who has ever wondered exactly what a conductor does will get insight when the Black Pearl Chamber Orchestra performs an evening of live orchestral music and a fun mini-conducting lesson at Penn State Great Valley.

The concert will be held on Wednesday, Oct. 26, at 7:30 p.m. It is free, but tickets are required at http://blackpearlgreatvalley.eventbrite.com, according to a Penn State press release.

Led by Jeri Lynne Johnson, one of the top female conductors in the world, Black Pearl provides audience members with hands-on experience with classical music and the power and excitement of making music. Highlights of the evening program will include orchestral favorites from Bach, Aaron Copland, Mozart, Vivaldi, George Walker and William Grant Still.

“We are excited to be coming to Great Valley and introducing Black Pearl to a new audience,” Johnson, the award-winning music director who founded the Black Pearl Orchestra in 2007, said in the release. "Classical music has struggled with diversifying its audience. Often, the perception is that classical music is for the older, European/American demographic. It may not have popular appeal that other genres may have. I think that with Black Pearl's diverse musicians, classical music is really for everyone."

Based in Philadelphia, the Black Pearl Chamber Orchestra was formed in 2007 as a model for the 21st-century American orchestra. Black Pearl’s mission is to take the audience beyond spectatorship to participation in the musical experience by combining artistic excellence with cultural diversity and innovative community engagement, the release said.

Black Pearl's musicians have been trained at leading music conservatories around the globe including the Curtis Institute, the Juilliard School, and the Peabody Institute among others. Through unique collaborations with institutions like the Free Library of Philadelphia, the Barnes Foundation, and Opera Philadelphia, Black Pearl creates classical music experiences that blur the lines between audience and performers, Black Pearl has garnered critical acclaim for its innovative audience engagement activities from the National Endowment for the Arts.

Johnson’s conducting engagements have included orchestras around the world including the Philadelphia Orchestra, Colorado Symphony, Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia, Chicago Sinfonietta, Bournemouth Symphony (UK) and the Weimar Staatskapelle (Germany).  Her conducting repertoire is unusually broad and has led her to performances of premieres of leading classical composers as well as a ground-breaking collaboration at Carnegie Hall with rapper Jay Z, singer/songwriter Alicia Keys, and hip hop band The Roots.

A recipient of many civic, community and artistic honors, including a 2011 Woman of Distinction from the Philadelphia Business Journal, 2010 British American Project Fellow, and 2010 Philly 360 Creative Ambassador by the Greater Philadelphia Tourism and Marketing Corporation. 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 she was heralded as one of today’s leading young women conductors on the NBC “Today Show.”

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