Anne Parsons Leadership Program

The Anne Parsons Leadership Program kicked off at the League’s 2023 National Conference in Pittsburgh! Six participants from across the country will meet regularly with mentors, as well as take part in Executive Leadership Workshops, to further develop leadership skills; Leadership Forums, to experience leadership strategies from women outside the orchestra field; and cohort meetings throughout the 2023-24 season.

An initiative from the League of American Orchestras, the program honors Anne Parsons, the transformative orchestra field leader and mentor who passed away in 2022. Participation is completely free of charge.

Read the latest press release.

Recent and upcoming program events

The Anne Parsons Leadership Program aims to effect structural change by supporting women and non-binary orchestra professionals in their career progressions. Each participant meets individually with their mentors bi-monthly, attends bi-monthly cohort meetings, and receives leadership training. Events include, among others:

Beyond the Binary Executive Leadership Workshop with McKensie Mack, Founder and CEO of MMG EARTH

Our ideas of gender, power, and identity continue to collectively grow and change as our society grows and changes. This workshop explored themes of advocacy, change management, and gender inclusivity.

Leading with Grace and Courage Executive Leadership Workshop with certified executive and professional development coaches Suzan Jenkins, CEO of the Arts and Humanities Council of Montgomery County, MD and Christina Littlejohn, CEO of Arkansas Symphony Orchestra

Pulling from their experiences, studies at Harvard, Stanford, and University of Michigan business schools, and network of friends, Suzan and Christina used case studies and research to cover many topics leaders and emerging leaders will face today and tomorrow.

Leadership Forum with Katherine Goforth, Operatic Tenor

Inspiring program participants to think outside the orchestral music field, Katherine shares how she finds new ways to show up authentically on and off the stage, and as a creative artist.

Leadership Forum with Sarah Willie-LeBreton, President of Smith College, Author, and Applied Sociologist

Inspiring program participants to think outside the orchestral music field, President Willie-LeBreton shares her commitment to the liberal arts, strengthening community, and energizing the work of equity and inclusion.

2023-2024 Cohort

The initial cohort is comprised of:

About the Program

Anne Parsons was a giant in the orchestra field. An institutional and civic leader of tremendous vision and presence, Anne was known across the orchestra profession as someone who led from culture – and it was through cultural transformation that she brought the Detroit Symphony Orchestra out from its darkest days to being one of the country’s most vibrant orchestral institutions.

Anne was beloved by those who knew and worked with her, but above all she was a role model to women on their journey to leadership positions, and to those already in leadership positions who aspired to her level of skill, finesse, and deep authenticity.

To honor Anne’s life and legacy as a transformational leader and mentor, the League has established the Anne Parsons Leadership Program.

The program will support promising women and non-binary orchestra professionals, create and train a new network of established orchestra leaders to mentor and support them, and build a wider pool of candidates for leadership roles in the country’s leading orchestras. The League’s vision is to achieve gender equity in executive orchestra leadership, including in the top thirty largest budget orchestras.

For the June 2023 to June 2024 cohort, six participants were selected based on their demonstrated experience and commitment to leading and serving American orchestras – including but not limited to alumni of the League’s longstanding leadership programs and individuals from backgrounds that have been historically underrepresented in the orchestral field.

The program will advance a new generation of candidates with the capacity to take on c-suite roles in major orchestras as well as building a culture of mentorship, coaching, and support across our field. The League expects to grow the program after the pilot, with the intention that it be a permanent part of the League’s leadership offerings.

Program Outcomes

After completing the Anne Parsons Leadership Program, participants will be able to:  

  • Apply their leadership skills and mindset to advance towards or take on an executive leadership role in an American orchestra
  • Utilize emergent and responsive leadership skills in advancing critical issues of equity, diversity, and inclusion in the orchestra field
  • Identify, analyze, and offer creative solutions to key strategic challenges in the evolving orchestra field
  • Advance orchestras as diverse, inclusive, and innovative organizations, while fulfilling their unique role in the cultural context of their communities
  • Thrive in an environment of evolving and competing imperatives as orchestras respond to the issues of our place and time and envision the future
  • Be an active member of a growing inclusive network of peers, mentors, and resources for continued professional development

Mentoring and Faculty Team

The Anne Parsons Leadership Program was originally conceived by the League in coordination with a group of four large-budget orchestra leaders who will serve as mentors: 

Faculty members include:

Additional mentors and faculty members for the June 2023 through June 2024 program will be announced at a later date.

League staff:

2023-2024 Program Components

Program participation for June 2023 through June 2024 will include:

  • June 14-16, 2023, League National Conference in Pittsburgh, PA
  • Two executive leadership workshops
  • Bimonthly cohort meetings
  • Bimonthly conversations with a pair of mentors
  • Quarterly leadership forums
  • Program and self-evaluations

Program participation is free. In addition, each participant will receive a travel stipend and free registration to the League’s National Conference to convene and to contribute their insights to the national debate. Participants will benefit from networking opportunities supported by the mentors, and the whole cohort’s profile will be promoted on a national level. Program participants will receive a one-year professional membership to the League of American Orchestras.

International participants are encouraged to understand the rules for visitor/business visas for travel to the U.S. The League of American Orchestras does not serve as a visa petitioner for this program, and the process and any costs related to visa compliance will be the responsibility of the participant.

Who was Eligible to Apply?

The Anne Parsons Leadership Program is an orchestra leadership program that welcomes applications from all who identify as a woman or non-binary individual and who have 5+ years of full-time employment by an orchestra.

Examples of women or non-binary individuals who could benefit from this program include:

  • Current orchestra executive leaders with the motivation to advance to a larger-budget organization
  • Individuals who aspire to their first c-suite role in an American orchestra and have demonstrated orchestral leadership initiative (participating in leadership training opportunities, taking lead on collaborative projects, etc.)
  • Alumni of the League’s longstanding leadership programs (Emerging Leaders Program, Essentials of Orchestra Management)
  • Orchestral musicians looking to transition into administrative orchestral leadership roles
  • Leaders and aspiring leaders who have a successful track record of at least 5 years full-time employment in orchestras and wish to progress on a path to lead an American orchestra


For additional information, please contact Heather Briere at hbriere@americanorchestras.org.

The Anne Parsons Leadership Program is made possible by generous support from Melanie Clarke, Colbert Artists Management, current and former orchestra executive directors, and arts leaders nationwide.

Underwriting for the application process graciously provided by Accept’d.

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