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Louisville Orchestra Announces Appointment of Graham Parker as New Chief Executive

Graham Parker (photo: Andrew Kung)

(November 2022)—The Louisville Orchestra (LO) announced today that Graham Parker, who has been serving the orchestra as Interim Executive Director for the last year, was appointed as the Chief Executive following a unanimous vote of the Board of the Louisville Orchestra. Parker officially assumes this role on November 10, 2022. A Peabody Award-winning executive, Parker brings over 25 years of experience in leadership roles at a broad range of arts organizations. Most recently, he was the President of Decca Records US at Universal Music Group, working with some of the most significant global artists, including Max Richter, Bill Murray, Andrea Bocelli, Lang Lang, Idina Menzel and the New York Philharmonic. In addition, Parker created a new label to highlight the most creative American artists, and through that label he signed Teddy Abrams and the Louisville Orchestra, producing the 2017 album All In, which reached #1 on Billboard’s Traditional Classical Chart, as well as 2019’s The Order of Nature, the groundbreaking collaboration between the LO and Louisville vocalist, guitarist and songwriter Jim James.

Shortly after leaving Decca, Parker was appointed LO Interim Executive Director, and he has been a guiding force behind the two remarkable high-profile initiatives that together define the orchestra’s path forward: the new, groundbreaking Creators Corps program that brings three full-time resident composers to Louisville to create works for the community they’re living in, and the statewide touring initiative, backed by a $4.3M appropriation from the Kentucky General Assembly, which expands the orchestra’s central mission of serving its community to the entire Commonwealth of Kentucky. Parker also reimagined and secured funding for the Music Without Borders series, has been instrumental in laying the groundwork for a new endowment campaign, and created an Arts & Health research initiative with the University of Louisville.

Louisville Orchestra Music Director Abrams says:

“On behalf of my colleagues at the Louisville Orchestra, we are tremendously excited and honored to have Graham Parker join as our Chief Executive. Graham has proven himself a visionary and tireless champion for this extraordinary orchestra, and we share a deeply held belief that the LO can be a leader locally and globally in reshaping the role of the orchestra as a vital and essential part of our world today. We are very fortunate to have Graham’s talent and passion at the helm of our team, and I can’t wait to continue working with him as a partner here in Louisville and throughout Kentucky.”

Parker responds:

“My career has been defined by partnerships and collaborations that seize on the biggest vision for impact and change through the power of music. This is where I excel and where I know I can be most valuable. Working alongside Teddy to frame and articulate a vision for the future of the LO is that next most natural partnership, and I am thrilled to be the new Chief Executive. I want to thank the LO family for welcoming me so warmly over the last year, and I have so much confidence about where the LO can continue to be most impactful to communities throughout Louisville and Kentucky in the months and years ahead.”

Chairman of the Board Andrew Fleischman also extends an enthusiastic welcome to Parker in his permanent role:

“From working with Graham for the last year as our Interim Executive Director, the Board is very impressed with his relentless energy, leadership qualities, and commitment to our orchestra. He has already accomplished so much in the 12 months he has been here. We are highly confident in continuing our relationship with Graham as our Chief Executive, as we believe he is the right person to lead the organization through the ambitious course laid out before us.”

Now in its ninth season under the dynamic and inspiring leadership of Music Director and Musical America 2022 Conductor of the Year Teddy Abrams, the Louisville Orchestra has become a byword for groundbreaking ideas about the role of the orchestra in its community. From the beginning of his tenure as Music Director, Abrams has envisioned the Louisville Orchestra as an artistic home inclusive of the entire population of the city. A key element in making this dream a reality is artist-driven civic leadership, perfectly exemplified by the orchestra’s recently launched Creators Corps initiative, which Parker nurtured from its beginnings as a great idea to the functional model it has become. The unique residency program brings three composers – currently, Lisa Bielawa, TJ Cole and Tyler Taylor – to reside in Louisville’s Shelby Park neighborhood for at least 30 weeks, composing new works to be performed by the orchestra, participating in educational and community engagement activities, and being active, engaged citizens of their neighborhood.

The $4.3M appropriation from the Kentucky General Assembly that Parker was also instrumental in securing, further enables Abrams and the Louisville Orchestra’s dedication to the community, allowing the orchestra to resume an annual statewide touring program that will visit every region of the Commonwealth of Kentucky over two years, beginning in 2022. Participation in all touring activities, including tickets to all performances, is free. Closely aligned with the touring program is the Music Without Borders series, conceived to take the orchestra and Abrams’s creative programming into non-traditional venues outside the concert hall. Starting this season, all concerts in the series will likewise now be free, removing all economic barriers to the enjoyment of the essential public service that the Louisville Orchestra represents.

For a complete schedule of the Louisville Orchestra’s 2022-23 season, visit:

About Graham Parker

Graham Parker assumed the post of Interim Executive Director of the Louisville Orchestra in October 2021, providing executive leadership for the largest arts non-profit in Kentucky and a leading change-making orchestra in the United States, with duties including fundraising, board growth, strategic initiatives, marketing and operations. During his first season, he oversaw a surplus budget as the orchestra emerged from COVID, and has planned for the largest surplus budget in the history of the organization in fiscal year 2023. He successfully led a strategic and lobbying effort to secure an unprecedented appropriation of $4.3M from the Commonwealth of Kentucky to support a new statewide touring initiative; oversaw the launch of the Louisville Orchestra Creators Corps; worked with Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer to launch a new community-based free access concert series to further the goals of social, economic and racial equity; and built new relationships amongst individual supporters, foundations and corporate leaders to ensure the future of the orchestra.

Prior to arriving in Louisville, Parker oversaw the largest classical music media company in the U.S., dominating market share and Billboard charts weekly in his role as President of Decca Records US at Universal Music Group. Encompassing the U.S.-based labels Decca Gold, which he established, and Paragon, Decca Records US is also the partner of European sister labels Decca Records, Decca Classics, Deutsche Grammophon, ECM, and Mercury KX, and the home for artists such as Andrea Bocelli, Idina Menzel, Lang Lang, Max Richter, Ólafur Arnalds, Chad Lawson and more.

Before joining Universal, Parker was General Manager of WQXR and the Jerome L. Greene Performance Space and a Senior Vice President of New York Public Radio. During his six years in that role, he earned a Peabody Award and implemented ambitious initiatives to serve New York’s thriving classical music scene. During his tenure, WQXR launched the new national series “Carnegie Hall Live”; pioneered critically acclaimed festivals including Beethoven Awareness Month, Month of Mozart, and Bachstock; presented a broad range of live events; oversaw the highly successful WQXR Instrument Drive; and secured its role as a leading digital music source with a relaunched app, the growth of Q2 Music (a channel dedicated to contemporary classical music), and the launch of Operavore, WQXR’s 24/7 opera channel. Parker also served as Executive Director of the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra for eight years, where he played a critical role in securing the long-term future for this world-class orchestra. He started his career in positions with the New York Philharmonic, the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center and the Brooklyn Philharmonic.

Parker holds a BSc (Hons) from Oxford Brookes University. He started his musical training on flute and piano, eventually taking up conducting when he arrived at college. He conducted the Oxford Brookes Choir and Orchestra and was the music director of Oxford Brookes’s only production at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in 1992.

About the Louisville Orchestra

Established in 1937 through the combined efforts of Louisville mayor Charles Farnsley and conductor Robert Whitney, the Louisville Orchestra is a cornerstone of the Louisville arts community. With the launch of First Edition Recordings in 1947, it became the first American orchestra to own a recording label. Six years later it received a Rockefeller grant of $500,000 to commission, record, and premiere music by living composers, thereby earning a place on the international circuit. In 2001, the Louisville Orchestra received the Leonard Bernstein Award for Excellence in Educational Programming, presented annually to a North American orchestra. Continuing its commitment to new music, the Louisville Orchestra has earned 19 ASCAP awards for Adventurous Programming of Contemporary Music and was also awarded large grants from the Aaron Copland Fund for Music and the National Endowment for the Arts, both for the purpose of producing, manufacturing and marketing its historic First Edition Recordings collections. Over the years, the orchestra has performed for prestigious events at the White House, Kennedy Center, Carnegie Hall, and on tour in Mexico City, and their last two albums for the Decca Gold label, All In (2017) and The Order of Nature (2019) – the latter launched with an appearance on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon – both topped the Billboard Classical and Crossover charts. The feature-length, Gramophone Award-winning documentary Music Makes a City (2010) chronicles the Louisville Orchestra’s founding years, and in spring 2018, Teddy Abrams and the orchestra were profiled on the popular television program CBS Sunday Morning.

High-resolution photos are available here.

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© 21C Media Group, November 2022


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