Featured image for post: Who Are We? Meet The Chicago Philharmonic Society

Who Are We? Meet The Chicago Philharmonic Society

Founded by musicians of the Lyric Opera Orchestra in 1989, The Chicago Philharmonic Society is a collaboration of over 200 of the highest-level classical musicians in the Midwest. Our orchestra, known as the Chicago Philharmonic, has been called one of the country’s finest symphonic orchestras. The brilliance of our structure is in our versatility – we curate the best ensemble for each concert from our exceptional pool of nearly 200 musician members, be it classical, jazz, pop, movie concerts, outreach programming, and everything else.


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We’ve been called Chicago’s “Ferrari of orchestras” (John von Rhein, Chicago Classical Review), praised for our collaborative performances, dedication to highlighting diverse voices in music, and our impressive artistic achievements. We have presented and commissioned major premieres by the greatest composers of our time, worked with stars like Lady Gaga, Joshua Bell, Tank and the Bangas, and Weird Al Yankovic. Our Donna Milanovich Composers in Residence program provides a launching platform for three exceptional emerging composers, and our community engagement programs reach thousands each year.


At Chicago Philharmonic, our goal is to bring innovative, exciting music to as many people as possible. As our Executive Director Terell Johnson says, “We’re bringing thrilling concerts to thousands of people, from all walks of life and from all around the world. It’s an honor to be a part of an organization that is working to move the art form forward.”


About Executive Director Terell Johnson

Terell Johnson is a Chicago performing arts leader, and Executive Director of the Chicago Philharmonic. HeTerell Johnson was named one of thirty nationwide “Professionals of the Year” in 2021 by Musical America, and is a member of the Harris Theater for Music and Dance Board of Trustees and co-chair of the Committee on Resident Companies, representing twenty-five Harris Theater Resident Companies. Prior to leading The Chicago Philharmonic Society, he was the Director of Business Development and Director of Community Engagement at the New World Symphony under the artistic leadership of Michael Tilson Thomas. During his time at New World Symphony, Terell served as the chair of Governance and Steering for the New World Symphony’s Equity, Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging committee. He is a native of Cape Coral, Florida and holds a Master of Music degree in clarinet performance from Florida State University and Bachelor of Music from the University of Central Florida. He is a fellow of SphinxLEAD (Leaders in Excellence, Arts & Diversity), a two-year leadership program designed to evolve the industry landscape by empowering the next generation of executive leaders. Terell’s current interests include wrangling his four and six-year-old boys, enjoying his wife’s creative culinary exploits, and music composition. Learn more about Terell Johnson.


About Artistic Director & Principal Conductor Scott Speck

Scott Speck Portrait

With recent performances in London, Paris, Moscow, Beijing, New York, Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Washington, Scott Speck has inspired international acclaim as a conductor of passion, intelligence, and winning personality. Scott Speck was named Artistic Director and Principal Conductor of Chicago Philharmonic in June of 2013 and has been Music Director of the Joffrey Ballet since 2010. He has become a frequent guest for the Chicago Symphony’s family concerts. His work with Chicago Philharmonic earned him the award “2021 Conductor of the Year” from the Illinois Council of Orchestras.


Born in Boston, Scott Speck graduated summa cum laude from Yale University. There he founded and directed the Berkeley Chamber Orchestra. He was a Fulbright Scholar in Berlin, where he founded Concerto Grosso Berlin, an orchestra dedicated to the performances of Baroque and Classical music in a historically informed style. He received his Master’s Degree with highest honors from the University of Southern California, served as a Conducting Fellow at the Aspen School of Music, and studied at the Tanglewood Music Center. He is fluent in English, German and French, has a diploma in Italian, speaks Spanish, and has a reading knowledge of Russian. Learn more about Scott Speck.


The Donna Milanovich Composer in Residence Program:

Named after former Executive Director Donna Milanovich, this program is part of an ongoing effort to champion the voices and talents of emerging artists of color. Three composers in residence were chosen for a three-year program from 2021-2024, which includes: Performance of one newly composed chamber work and one newly composed symphonic work by the Chicago Philharmonic in the organization’s symphonic and chamber series within the 3-year residency. A seat on the Chicago Philharmonic’s board-elected Artistic Programming and Policies Committee, providing input and sharing in the organization’s artistic planning for the duration of the residency. Development opportunities with Chicago Philharmonic Artistic Director and Principal Conductor Scott Speck, as well as opportunities to connect with other conductors, composers, and orchestral organizations. Learn more about each of the composers.


Catch their next performances:

Reinaldo Moya: World Premiere of cello concertino Rise
January 14, 2023
See the video below for Reinaldo’s most recent premiere with Chicago Philharmonic!


Marcus Norris: World Premiere piece for orchestra
April 15, 2023


Jonathan Bingham: World Premiere TBD
2023-2024 Symphonic Series





The Chicago Philharmonic has a unique system of governance: one with musicians at the helm, informing and participating in every level of governance.

We describe our large pool of nearly 200 performing members as a “Community of Musicians,” a phrase coined by Pierre Boulez as the ideal form for a major musical arts organization. Our musician members participate in several ways:

  • Service on the board of directors. At any given time, at least half of the membership of our board of directors consists of musician members; Board of Directors Listing.
  • Participation in committees. Our administration makes decisions based on the guidance and oversight of six committees: Artistic, Personnel, Patron Services, Financial, Development, and Chamber Music. The majority of committee members are performing musicians, some of whom also serve on the board of directors; Committee Member Listing.
  • Involvement through the Musicians Advisory Council. This group of musician members elected by the board provides a large pool from which to draw future board and committee members. The council provides feedback to management and the board concerning our musical and organizational policies and activities; Musician Advisory Council Listing.
Community Engagement

Our community engagement programs bridge the gap between the musicians in our orchestra and the Chicago community. By bringing music into public schools, hosting free concerts in public spaces, and providing young musicians with world-class performance opportunities, our goal is to serve our community and make classical music accessible to all. Learn more about our community engagement programs.


Our Commitment to Equity, Diversity & Inclusion

We are committed to recognizing and breaking down systems of segregation and racism which exist in the classical music community. Our continued self-reflection and action required to dismantle these systems of exclusivity helps us serve our mission to reflect Chicago’s vibrant culture. We welcome people of all races, ethnicities, nationalities, sexual orientations, gender identities, abilities, religions, and backgrounds.

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Chicago Philharmonic is a proud partner of the National Alliance for Audition Support, an unprecedented national initiative to increase diversity in American orchestras. It will do so by offering Black and Latinx musicians a customized combination of mentoring, audition preparation, financial support, and audition previews. NAAS is made up of The Sphinx Organization, the lead program administrator and fiscal agent for the Alliance; the New World Symphony, America’s Orchestral Academy; and the League of American Orchestras, representing 700 orchestras. A group of Black and Latinx professional musicians will be thought leaders, guides, and advisors for the Alliance. NAAS is supported by a four-year grant of $1.8M from The Andrew W. Mello


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