The Solti Foundation U.S. Board welcomes new members Donnal L. Kendall and Blake-Anthony Johnson

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The Solti Foundation U.S. announces two new members elected to Board of Directors

Donna L. Kendall and Blake-Anthony Johnson

Board of Directors
Penny Van Horn, Chair
Kay Mabie, Vice Chair
Nicholas Martin, Secretary
Gretchen Zook,Treasurer

John Aalbregste
Elizabeth Buccheri
Pamela Bullock
Michelle Miller Burns
Mary Jane Drews
Mark George
Martha Gilmer
William R. Jentes
David McNeel
Zarin Mehta
Stephen Potter
Gabrielle Solti
Frank Villella
Peter Wiggins
Duain Wolfe
Owen Youngman

Director Emeritus
Mitzi Freidheim
Dietrich Gross
Thomas B. McNeill, Past Chair

Artistic and Awards Committee
Elizabeth Buccheri, Chair
Pamela Bullock
Duain Wolfe
Peter Wiggins

In Memoriam
Valerie Solti, Honorary Chair
Richard Gray, Founding Director

Evanston, IL – The Sir Georg Solti Foundation today announced the election of two new Board Members: philanthropist Donna L. Kendall and Chicago Sinfonietta CEO Blake-Anthony Johnson. In making the announcement, Penny van Horn, Chair of the Board of Directors, stated, "As a foundation dedicated to assisting up-and- coming American conductors in the early stages of their career, and as an organization committed to the continuation and growth of classical music in the legacy of the late Sir Georg Solti, we appreciate the experience, connections, and passion our two new board members bring to the table. We greatly look forward to their input!"

David McNeel, head of the Board of Directors Development Committee, stated, “We are delighted to welcome Donna Kendall and Blake-Anthony Johnson to The Solti Foundation U.S. Board. Donna brings extensive knowledge of the symphonic and opera conducting world. Blake-Anthony likewise has an extensive knowledge of the symphonic world and is not only active in the orchestral landscape, but in many areas of the classical music world. Both will be a great asset to the Foundation.”

About Donna L. Kendall
Donna L. Kendall was for many years a successful businesswoman and fashion designer in New York City. After her retirement, she became a philanthropist, concentrating principally on music organizations. She is a board member of The Philharmonic Society of Orange County, Segerstrom Hall, in Newport Beach, California, where she has just concluded a 3-year term as Chairman and CEO, and where she also sponsors the Donna L. Kendall Classical Series, and La Verdi Orchestra and Chorus, based in Milan. Ms. Kendall served for several years on the Board of the Santa Fe Opera. In addition, she is currently a Trustee of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra (CSO), and in 2018 was Trustee Co-chair of the CSO’s Symphony Ball. | Laura

About Blake-Anthony Johnson
The first African American executive to guide a nationally renowned orchestra, Blake-Anthony Johnson has served as Chief Executive Officer of the award-winning Chicago Sinfonietta since May 2020. A civically engaged and transformational leader, Mr. Johnson focuses on community-centric, multi-disciplinary, and educational initiatives that enable cultural institutions to provide equitable access and public service to all. He is an active member of numerous organizational boards and committees, including the City of Chicago’s Department of Cultural Affairs & Special Events (in various roles) the Steering Committee of Chicago Musical Pathways Initiative, and the League of American Orchestras’ EDI Orchestra Management Committee. frontMr. Johnson is also an accomplished musician, and is a former professional cellist and protégé of Michael Tilson Thomas at New World Symphony. A champion of arts education, Mr. Johnson is a member of the Faculty at Roosevelt University’s Chicago Conservatory of Performing Arts.

Johnson has established a reputation for advancing the arts with innovative ideas (his Pay-What-You-Can Program at Chicago Sinfonietta, introduced this season, continues to be a front-runner in the field, inspiring other organizations to adopt this practice). Praised by The New York Times Classical Music Editor Zachary Woolfe when announced, organizations in Ohio, Michigan, Texas, California, and New York are the latest adopters of this model. Johnson recently served as emcee, moderator, and facilitator for the 2021 League of American Orchestras’ 76th National Conference, and as a speaker at the League’s 2020 Mid-Winter Conference. His former posts include two terms on the National Endowment for the Arts Music Panel; Assistant Personnel Manager, Spoleto Music Festival USA; Director of Learning and Community, Louisville Orchestra; and as an Arts Advisory Council Member in Louisville, Kentucky.

About The Solti Foundation U.S.
Now in its 22nd year of assisting outstanding young U.S. conductors to further develop their talent and careers, The Solti Foundation U.S. is the foremost organization in the United States dedicated exclusively to helping young conductors.

Established in 2000 to honor the memory of the legendary conductor Sir Georg Solti by lending significant support to career-ready young American musicians, in 2004, the Foundation concentrated the focus of its award program to solely assist talented young American conductors early in their professional careers (its original mission was of a more general arts nature). Since then, it has awarded over one million dollars through grants and residencies to American conductors.

The Foundation endeavors to seek out those musicians who have chosen to follow a path similar to that followed by Sir Georg himself. In keeping with the spirit of Sir Georg’s active approach to his career, young conductors must apply to be considered for the awards.

While dedicated to identifying and assisting young conductors early on, the Foundation is also concerned with the long-term development of its award recipients, continuing to offer support and maintaining a constant interest in their growth and achievements.

The Foundation currently awards the following grants annually:

The Sir Georg Solti Conducting Award.
The largest grant currently given to American conductors in the formative years of their careers, the prestigious $30,000 grant is given annually to a single promising American conductor 38 years of age or younger. The Award, also known as The Solti Fellow, includes door-opening introductions, ongoing professional mentoring, and introductions to two of Chicago’s most prestigious performing organizations: Lyric Opera of Chicago and Chicago Symphony Orchestra. Recipients include Gemma New, Aram Demirjian, Yaniv Dinur, Roderick Cox, Christopher Allen, Karina Canellakis, Vladimir Kulenovic, Cristian Macelaru, James Feddeck, Case Scaglione, Eric Nielsen, and Anthony Barrese.

The Solti Foundation U.S. Career Assistance Award.
The amounts given for The Solti Foundation U.S. Career Assistance Awards vary, but the intent behind them does not.

The Elizabeth Buccheri Opera Residency.
Introduced in the 2014-15 season, the program places former award recipients with a distinguished opera house for one-on-one mentoring and coaching of an opera during the company’s professional season. Recipients have worked with numerous stellar opera companies renowned for their artistic excellence across the country, including the Lyric Opera of Chicago, Florentine Opera Company in Milwaukee, North Carolina Opera, Opera Theatre of St. Louis, and Michigan Opera Theatre. Conductors cannot apply, but are instead selected by the Artistic and Awards Committee.

The Foundation is currently the only American Foundation to grant these kinds of awards each year to young American conductors. Citizens or permanent residents of the United States who are career-ready artists in the field of conducting are eligible to apply.

Applicants for all Solti Foundation U.S. awards must be able to demonstrate that he/she is developing a career as a symphonic / operatic conductor. All applications from The Sir Georg Solti Conducting Award are considered for a Solti Foundation U.S. Career Assistance Award. Applications are reviewed by an awards committee comprised of a panel of professionals with broad musical and conducting experience. The Foundation reserves the right to withhold a grant in any given year if the Awards Committee does not find suitable applicants in one or more of the various award categories.

For further details on The Solti Foundation U.S., its past awardees, their biographical information, the Foundation’s newsletter, as well as other news, please visit the Foundation’s website at:

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