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Louisville Ballet names Philip Koester as new executive director

Louisville Ballet has named Philip Koester as the new executive director of the dance company.
Craig T. Mathew and Greg Grudt/M
Louisville Ballet has named Philip Koester as the new executive director of the dance company.

Louisville Ballet’s board of directors has named Philip Koester as the new executive director of the dance company.

Koester comes to the organization from the Kentucky Opera where he worked as the Chief Revenue and Advancement Officer.

He also worked at the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Lyric Opera of Chicago and the Los Angeles Opera. 

During an interview, Koester said he wants to build on the work current artistic director Robert Curran and staff have put in place, saying they have “wonderful main stage productions.”

He said he shares Curran's goal of promoting diversity, equity and inclusion on the stage.

“I really think DEI should be a pillar, a foundational pillar of any arts organization, or any organization really,” Koester said.

Koester has advanced diversity and equity other roles. While in Chicago, he helped establish the Chicago Symphony Orchestra's Latino Alliance and African American Network.

He said he hopes to work with Curran to further the diversity work Louisville Ballet has already done.

“I have a real passion for building audiences and diversifying audiences,” Koester said. “I want to try and make our audiences look like the city that we serve.”

Beyond leading Louisville Ballet, Koester said he plans to work with other arts organizations in the city to build relationships and further promote diversity in Louisville’s art scene at large. 

“I think that’s where a lot of opportunity is, on the west side and on the south side, particularly with DEI and our community engagement,” Koester said.

Koester’s hiring comes after a year-long search by the ballet’s board of directors.

Board president Ralph de Chabert said in a statement that Koester is a “combination of accessible and analytical, with a human-centered, future-focused leadership approach.”

“His depth of experience in engaging new audiences and communities also closely aligns with our efforts and desire to better connect with, and reflect, the entire community,” de Chabert said.

Curran, Louisville Ballet’s artistic director, said the organization wanted someone with the skills and experience needed to move the ballet forward.

“We look for someone who captures the spirit of who we are – someone with a commitment to relationship-building in our communities, a passion for reaching audiences across traditional boundaries in new, meaningful ways, and an awareness of our strengths and areas of opportunity as an industry,” Curran said in a press release.

Koester said he plans to expand and fill roles within Louisville Ballet staff, continue to increase revenue and monitor how live performances will move forward with the ever-changing nature of the COVID-19.

Breya Jones is the Arts & Culture Reporter for LPM. Email Breya at bjones@lpm.org.

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