Hidden from small

Kelly Lee: In the Spotlight

February 27, 2018

A Monthly Profile of Orchestra Fans and Family

Philadelphia born and bred, city arts official and Philadelphia Orchestra Board member Kelly Lee vividly recalls the first time she heard her world-class hometown orchestra. It wasn’t at a concert. “I was watching the classic Disney film Fantasia when I was young. At the time I didn’t realize it was The Philadelphia Orchestra! But I really enjoyed the entire experience of the animation, because of its connection to the music.”

Who knows what sets people on their career path? But that early encounter with the Fabulous Philadelphians surely had an effect on Kelly. School at Germantown Friends led to the University of Pennsylvania, and then a fascinating series of positions promoting and supporting the arts. “I’ve worked at Innovation Philadelphia, a non-profit that supported technology-based creative businesses. I also worked in economic development at PECO Energy and the City of Philadelphia Department of Commerce, promoting the arts as a business attraction strategy. As director of communications of the Pennsylvania Convention Authority, I leveraged the arts in Philadelphia in marketing the Convention Center and the city, to attract conferences and conventions to the Pennsylvania Convention Center.”

Today, Kelly is head of Philadelphia’s Office of Arts, Culture, and the Creative Economy. “That title is all-inclusive in that the office focuses on the diversity of creative industries, both nonprofit and for profit. Creative economy includes the support of professionals in the sector, and those who will be in the sector in the future.”

Two years into her tenure, Kelly points to progress in several areas: “Expanding high-quality performances in neighborhoods where people live; collaborating with other city departments including Parks and Recreation and the Mayor’s Office of Adult Education, to infuse the arts in their activities; and promoting the high-quality, free programming that arts organizations are doing all around the city, to provide access to everyone.”

Kelly also serves on The Philadelphia Orchestra Association’s Board of Directors. “I’m relatively new to the Board, and consider my seat a privilege. I would love to highlight the other work the Orchestra does besides perform, such as its educational and youth programs. Not many people know that the Orchestra offers programs like these through partnerships with the School District of Philadelphia. I’m very excited about the work the Orchestra does, and look forward to helping them to reach their goals to increase visibility and diversity.”

Her busy career hasn’t always left time for going to concerts. “I’ve always enjoyed listening to classical music while relaxing, reading, or cooking, but hadn’t attended Orchestra concerts on a regular basis until recently. Now, I’ve come to realize that hearing them live adds another level to the experience. My favorite concert to date was the Opening Night Concert and Gala last October. I really loved the diversity, with compositions by Bernstein, Beethoven, and Brahms, as well as the impressive performance by the eight-year-old protégé pianist [Albert M. Greenfield Student Competition winner Harmony Zhu].”

Kelly stresses, you don’t have to be a high-powered city official to get involved with The Philadelphia Orchestra.I would say it is a privilege for anyone who is fortunate enough to see the Orchestra live. I encourage the current audience to find ways to support the Orchestra financially, so that they can continue their programs to reach those less privileged.”