Meet Nicole Jordan; First black woman to join Philadelphia Orchestra in its 120-year history

Mohammed Awal June 29, 2020
Courtesy of the Philadelphia Orchestra

Nicole Jordan is the new Principal Librarian for the Philadelphia Symphony Orchestra. This makes Jordan the first Black woman to hold the position fulltime since the organization was founded 120 years ago.

By her recruitment, Jordan is expected to curate each piece of a live performance through vigorous research and extensive encyclopedic knowledge of music, 6ABC reports.

Jordan is replacing the retiring Robert Grossman as the Orchestra’s Principal Librarian. Grossman started as the orchestra’s assistant librarian in 1979 and became the principal in 2003.

“I’m still in a bit of disbelief,” Jordan said. “I never imagined I would accomplish something like this. You dream about it, but you never really know if you can pull it off or if you’ll have the opportunity.”

A native of Philadelphia, Jordan first joined the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra as Assistant Principal Librarian in October 2011 and held that position for five years, according to the organization’s website.

In September 2016, she was named Principal Librarian, becoming the first African-American to hold this position at a major orchestra. 

Before joining the ASO, Jordan who holds a Bachelor of Music degree in viola performance from the University of Minnesota-Duluth and a Master of Music degree in music history from Temple University held positions with The Philadelphia Orchestra, Interlochen Center for the Arts, Symphony in C and the Aspen Music Festival and School. 

“Nicole will be an invaluable partner to me and my colleagues on the stage, and those in the administration, as we look to the future of the Philadelphia Orchestra,” Yannick Nézet-Séguin, the orchestra’s music director said.

President and CEO of The Philadelphia Orchestra, Matías Tarnopolsky said Jordan’s hiring will be about great diversity in the organization. “Today, Nicole Jordan’s appointment is a historic moment for the Philadelphia Orchestra,” Tarnopolsky said. “Through greater diversity comes greater excellence.”

Speaking to 6ABC, Jordan said she didn’t set out to make history when she started. “I just set out to kind of do what I love. We’re in a very interesting place as Black Americans,” she said. “I think we’re coming into our voices. We’re not sitting back and taking no for an answer.”

For Marilyn Rife, director of orchestra personnel, who oversaw Jordan’s audition process, she “clearly had the knowledge base.”

“That was very, very strong. But she also had a very warm but direct and thoughtful personality about her. I think of how the orchestra plays, their phrasing. Everything they play is so well-thought-out and beautifully executed, and she kind of struck me the same way as a librarian,” Rife told The Inquirer.

Jordan will begin her tenure as the Philadelphia Orchestra’s Principal Librarian in the 2020-21 season. 

Last Edited by:Kent Mensah Updated: June 29, 2020


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