Blake-Anthony Johnson at Chicago’s Auditorium Theatre. Photo by E. Jason Wambsgans/Chicago Tribune.

Blake-Anthony Johnson, president and CEO of Chicago Sinfonietta, has been named a “Chicagoan of the Year for Classical Music” in the Chicago Tribune’s annual roundup of the city’s influential leaders, reports Hannah Edgar in Thursday’s (12/21) Chicago Tribune. Founded in 1987 by the late conductor and activist Paul Freeman, Chicago Sinfonietta champions equity, diversity, and inclusion at orchestras and in classical music, onstage and off. Edgar: “Since the pandemic shutdown, the Sinfonietta has kickstarted an artist-in-residence program … implemented a groundbreaking pay-what-you-can ticket pricing model, doubled its operating budget and announced new digs at the Auditorium Theatre, where it will play as the historic venue’s resident orchestra. The person leading that transformation: an unassuming, soft-spoken, cellist-turned-exec named Blake-Anthony Johnson. Now 32, Johnson took over the Sinfonietta at an unheard-of 29 years old in 2020, making him one of the youngest executives to lead a nationally renowned American orchestra and likely the first African American to do so. And he’s just getting started.” Johnson was also named a 2022 “Crain’s 40 Under 40” by Crains Chicago Business, which recognizes “40 of the community’s best and brightest who have made a mark before their 40th birthday.”