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Louisville Orchestra’s next chief executive has a head start on understanding the organization and community

090614_LOFanfara building wrap Frankie Steele
by Frankie Steele/Louisville Orc
/
Scene during, the open of the Louisville Orchestra Classics season with Fanfara, and welcoming Teddy Abrams as the new Music Director, at The Kentucky Center in Louisville, KY. Sept. 6, 2014 (by Frankie Steele/Louisville Orchestra)

The Louisville Orchestra has named a new chief executive.

Graham Parker, who served as the interim director for the last year, is staying on board long term, the organization announced Thursday.

Parker told WFPL News that working with the orchestra and its music director, Teddy Abrams, has been invigorating.

“I really just became more and more captivated by the orchestra, by the community I was meeting and the enthusiasm for what seemed to be the path that the Louisville Orchestra had been taking throughout its history, but most recently with Teddy, and what more I could add to that journey,” he said.

Parker has spent decades working with arts nonprofits, including orchestras, and was general manager for New York Public Radio’s classical station, WQXR. He was also the president of the recording label Decca Records, a division of Universal Music Group.

It was through Decca Records that Parker met Abrams, signing him and producing the 2017 album “All In” and the 2019 release “Order of Nature,” a collaboration between Louisville Orchestra and My Morning Jacket singer-songwriter Jim James. 

“I started coming down to Louisville, and Teddy and I formed a really wonderful kind of musical partnership and friendship,” Parker said. 

Parker felt that relationship has strengthened in the past year.

“I respect his artistic role. He respects my role as the kind of executive leader of the organization. Sometimes those will be in harmony, sometimes those will be reasons we have to kind of moderate and adjust, and we both respect that of each other,” he said.

In a news release, Abrams called Parker a “tireless champion for this extraordinary orchestra.”

“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,” Abrams said. “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.”

Board chairman Andrew Fleischman said the board appreciated Parker’s “relentless energy, leadership qualities and commitment to our orchestra.”

In the time Parker was interim with the orchestra, he had a hand in securing a $4.3 million appropriation from the Kentucky General Assembly last legislative session to support a two-year, statewide tour. He’s also credited with helping launch the Creators Corps residency, paying three composers to live in Louisville and create music for and with the community.

His aspirations in Louisville include furthering the orchestra’s commitment to civic engagement, through initiatives like Creators Corps and Music Without Borders free concert series. 

“Whilst it is true that we really kind of articulated a very current idea of the orchestra as an artist-driven civic leader, that we can be – and actually must be – essential to healing the city through generational divide and inequity, I would actually say that has been a part of the DNA of the law of the orchestra since 1937,” Parker said.

The orchestra’s origins date back to terrible flooding in Louisville in 1937 that washed out its downtown. 

“We saw that an orchestra was essential to the rebuilding and the reestablishment of Louisville,” Parker said. “This kind of current expression of how we can show up for the people of the city and the state is that next natural expression.”

Another priority is ensuring the organization’s fiscal health, Parker said, especially as arts organizations around the world continue to recover from the effects of pandemic-related shutdowns. 

Clarification: This story has been updated to reflect that Graham Parker is the Louisville Orchestra's chief executive.

Disclosure: The Louisville Orchestra is a financial supporter of Louisville Public Media.

Stephanie Wolf is LPM's Arts & Culture Reporter. Email Stephanie at swolf@lpm.org.