The Journal Gazette
Saturday, November 20, 2021 1:00 am

Philharmonic director will leave post for city nonprofit

SHERRY SLATER | The Journal Gazette

James Palermo will leave his post as the Fort Wayne Philharmonic's managing director, effective Jan. 2, officials announced Friday.

The orchestra's board will immediately begin searching for a replacement, a news release said.

Palermo is leaving for a role in which he will help form and manage a new, local nonprofit. The organization, which is not yet named, will focus on “activating and programming spaces and events in and around Pearl Street real estate projects.”

Surack Enterprises is developing the projects, which will include opportunities for the Philharmonic, the news release said.

Chuck Surack, who founded Sweetwater Sound and owns Surack Enterprises, chairs the Philharmonic's board of directors.

Palermo came to Fort Wayne as a consultant in 2015 to help stabilize the Philharmonic's leadership and financial challenges, officials said.

“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,” Surack said in a statement.

“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,” Surack added.

Before taking his position with the Philharmonic, Palermo was artistic and general director of the Grant Park Music Festival in Chicago's Millennium Park.

The Fort Wayne Philharmonic furloughed musicians and cut administrative staff during the coronavirus pandemic. Palermo and Andrew Constantine, music director, donated a portion of their salaries to the nonprofit organization to reduce expenses, officials announced in July 2020.

The holidays are traditionally the orchestra's busiest time of the year with Holiday Pops performances, the “Nutcracker” with Fort Wayne Ballet and a performance of Handel's “Messiah.” 

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