November 19, 2021
James W. Palermo to Leave Post as Fort Wayne Philharmonic Managing Director
to Lead New, Local Nonprofit as Founding Executive Director

Board begins search for new leader for Jan. 2022, transition

The Fort Wayne Philharmonic today announced that James W. Palermo will leave his post as the orchestra’s managing director, effective January 2, 2022. The Board will immediately commence planning to name a successor.

Palermo is leaving for a new role in which he will help form and subsequently manage a new, local nonprofit organization. Not yet named, the organization will focus on activating and programming spaces and events in and around Fort Wayne’s Pearl Street real estate projects. Surack Enterprises is developing the projects, which will include opportunities for the Philharmonic.

Palermo came to Fort Wayne as a consultant in 2015 to help stabilize the Philharmonic’s leadership and financial challenges. He served as an interim manager until his success led to the Board naming him managing director.

“Jim helped us through really tough financial times in 2015, then tirelessly set to work building back audiences and putting into place unique projects like Bach in the Barn, Violins of Hope, the Great Performers Series, and many others. He’s been a real change agent, helping to maneuver us through the pandemic and union negotiations, all while working with the Board to safeguard the future of the orchestra," said Board Chair Chuck Surack.

“I’m delighted and honored for this opportunity to be a cheerleader on behalf of the community and region I love, all in tandem with the resurgence of downtown. Our community is on the rise, and I look forward to being a continued partner and champion for the Philharmonic, as well as other arts, educational, cultural and business organizations, to make the Pearl Street corridor an exciting new hub for the entire region,” said Palermo.

Before relocating to Fort Wayne, Palermo played an important part in the design of the Jay Pritzker Pavilion in Chicago's Millennium Park as Artistic and General Director of the Grant Park Music Festival, subsequently creating programs and services that helped build new audiences.

In his new position, Palermo will help activate the Pearl Street complex, and coordinate with other users, partners, and collaborators to make the Pearl Street Corridor a destination for arts, cultural, educational, entertainment, and economic activities. In particular, he will remain a key ally of the Philharmonic, working closely with the orchestra’s executive leadership on its plans for a new downtown home.

“The Philharmonic is such an important asset to Fort Wayne and to communities throughout Northeast Indiana. It will be a privilege to continue to advocate for the Philharmonic and help ensure its ongoing success in my new role,” he said.

More details about the new 501c3 nonprofit organization and its plans will be announced in early 2022.

Now in its 78th season, the Fort Wayne Philharmonic is one of the most exciting performing arts organizations in Indiana. The Philharmonic’s mission is to inspire and foster a lifelong love of symphonic music through performance and education. Led by Music Director Andrew Constantine, Philharmonic performances reach more than 200,000 people every season at the historic Embassy Theatre, Auer Concert Hall, and at various venues throughout the community, including schools, nursing homes, community centers, and churches. The Fort Wayne Philharmonic is truly an orchestra of the future, with bold plans to reach deeply into the fabric of the community with exciting, entertaining, and meaningful offerings. The Philharmonic reaches more than 39,000 young people and families through its extensive education and community engagement programs, including Ensembles in the Schools, Young People’s Concerts, and Club Orchestra - a novel El Sistema modeled collaborative program with three Fort Wayne Community Schools - inspiring and motivating young citizens of the future. Regional touring, donor cultivation, and Board activities round out a busy schedule for the orchestra.