Jim Hirsch has served as Executive Director of Chicago Sinfonietta since August of 2004. During his tenure at the Sinfonietta the organization’s budget has increased by 65% and programming has expanded in important new directions. These new initiatives include: Project Inclusion and Project Inclusion Ensembles, minority fellowship programs that seek to address the dearth of minority musicians playing in U.S. orchestras; the SEED Program that provides high school age student-musicians with instruction in ensemble playing techniques; and a chamber music series that has been presented in partnership with the Adler Planetarium, Shedd Aquarium, the National Museum of Mexican Art and the Joffrey Ballet. Hirsch guided the Sinfonietta through the retirement of Founding Music Director Paul Freeman in June of 2011, the appointment of his successor, Mei-Ann Chen in July of 2011, and the orchestra’s re-location from River Forest to Naperville for its west suburban concert series.
Prior to his work at Chicago Sinfonietta, Hirsch served as Vice President and Executive Director of the Chicago Association for the Performing Arts, managers and programmers of the Chicago Theatre, and as the Executive Director of the Old Town School of Folk Music. During his tenure at Old Town from 1982 until 2000, the organization became the largest institution of its kind in the country. The organization’s budget grew from $300,000 in 1986 to $7 million in 2000. In 1999, Hirsch completed work on a $10.2 million capital campaign that funded the organization’s expansion to the new Chicago Folk Center, a 43,000 square-foot building that the City of Chicago donated to the School, and established a $1 million endowment fund.
Hirsch has served as a grants panelist for the Illinois and Oregon Arts Councils and as a member of NARAS (Grammy) Awards and Nominations committee. He produced a nationally syndicated radio program for NPR and has released three albums. Hirsch has served as a consultant for a number of arts and social service agencies. He was chosen by Crains Chicago Business for their annual 40 Under 40 article that honors Chicago’s up-and-coming business executives under 40 years of age and was named Chicago Arts Entrepreneur of the Year in 1996. In 1998, he was chosen as one of Chicago Magazine’s Chicagoans of the Year. In 2006 he founded chicagoclassicalmusic.org, a website dedicated to audience engagement currently owned and operated by over thirty Chicago-area classical music organizations. In 2011 Hirsch received a Midwest/Chicago Emmy Award for Best Arts and Culture Documentary as Co-Producer of Chicago Sinfonietta: Sounds of Diversity.