New leadership model for festival is designed to bring varied artistic voices into summer programming Mr. Parker begins three-year role immediately and will host and perform in multiple Minnesota Orchestra programs beginning in July 2020

The Minnesota Orchestra outlined a new leadership model for its summer festival today, naming pianist Jon (“Jackie”) Kimura Parker its first-ever Creative Partner for summer programming. Mr. Parker will serve as a creative force behind the Orchestra’s popular summer festival over the next three summers, leading a collaborative process with Music Director Osmo Vänskä, the Musicians’Artistic Advisory Committee and artistic staff to develop programming. Beginning the role immediately, Mr. Parker will serve as a host, performer and personality beginning in the summer of 2020, plans for which will be announced in the spring.

The Creative Partner post—the first in the Orchestra’s history—is a flexible position, designed to bring varied artistic voices into the organization to shape summer programming with different perspectives, specialties and influences. Creative Partners will serve two- to three-year terms, some of which may overlap. “It’s an exciting model that will allow the Orchestra and its audiences to benefit from creative collaboration with a range of partners who may be performers, conductors or artists from other disciplines,” said President and CEO Michelle Miller Burns. “We are happy to unleash Jackie’s tremendous creative energies in this role.”

Music Director Osmo Vänskä agreed: “Jackie Parker is a great person to have as the first artist in this role. He is an excellent musician, and he also has a great sense of curiosity and adventure that leads to interesting conversation and surprising programming.”

Mr. Parker first performed at the Minnesota Orchestra’s Sommerfest in 1990—playing in a Piano Spectacular that showcased four pianists—and has returned for both festival and subscription performances many times since then. “Sommerfest played a huge role in my growth as a musician,” he said. “To now serve in a role where I can contribute to the artistic vision and future of the festival, alongside Osmo Vänskä, musicians and artistic staff, is a dream. My own musical journey has mainly been as a pianist, but I have always welcomed opportunities to step out of the box, and this opportunity to do something new and different is exhilarating.”

Mr. Parker has appeared as a piano soloist in the world’s great halls, working with outstanding conductors and orchestras. He frequently performs chamber music with the Miró Quartet and is a founding member of the Montrose Trio. Throughout his career he has also sought out more unconventional projects: As a member of Piano Plus, he has toured remote areas including the Canadian Arctic, performing on instruments from upright pianos to electronic keyboards. He co-founded Off The Score, a quintet with legendary Police drummer Stewart Copeland. He has hosted the TV series Whole Notes on Bravo! and CBC Radio’s Up and Coming, and his YouTube channel showcases a Concerto Chat video series designed to illuminate the piano concerto repertoire. A native of Canada, Mr. Parker is a Professor of Piano at The Shepherd School of Music at Rice University and serves as the Artistic Advisor of the Orcas Island Chamber Music Festival.

Said Minnesota Orchestra horn player Ellen Dinwiddie Smith, previous chair of the Musicians’ Artistic Advisory Committee, “I’ve been a member of the Minnesota Orchestra since Jackie first began appearing with us. It was clear from the outset that he and the musicians had a special connection. I believe that Jackie is an ideal creative partner because of the pure joy that emanates from his playing. He exudes playfulness and generosity of spirit that is contagious, and I know our audiences will be captivated by his creativity.”

The Minnesota Orchestra’s summer music festival, Sommerfest, was founded in 1980 by conductor Leonard Slatkin. The July festival, which is held in Orchestra Hall with activities spilling outdoors onto the adjacent Peavey Plaza, has previously been led by Artistic Directors and Advisors including Andrew Litton, Jeffrey Tate, David Zinman and Michael Steinberg.

Said Ms. Burns, “We value that Jackie both respects the compelling history of this festival and also has many ideas for taking it in new directions.”


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