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In Conversation with Winning STL: SLSO President and CEO Marie-Hélène Bernard

Marie-Hélène Bernard, President and CEO of the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra, was recently interviewed by Ian Caso, Publisher of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, as part of the newspaper’s Winning STL video series. She shared her perspective and insight into the SLSO’s past, present, and future in St. Louis.

In the first part of the interview, Marie-Hélène discussed the SLSO’s unique position in St. Louis and with orchestras nationwide.

“Nationally, the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra has always had a strong reputation,” she said. “We have an incredible legacy.”

The SLSO has always been a pioneer and innovator—taking risks for 143 years, from being a leader in music education and commissioning Black composers in the 1930s to launching the careers of conductors and artists. Bernard described music as an experience of the heart, and she hopes to cultivate an environment where music fosters connection and encourages fun.

In the second video installment, Bernard and Caso talked about the ongoing Powell Hall expansion and renovation project. Originally built as a movie theater in 1925, the project will “create a music center for the community and double the size of the hall, including a new education and learning center,” Bernard said.

Watch part one below:

While the original architecture and renowned acoustics will be preserved, Powell Hall will be updated and expanded to better accommodate both the orchestra and St. Louis community almost 100 years after it was built. Bernard explained the renovations will serve the community by “creating access to music” with accessible space. When completed, Powell Hall will have “amenities that will better support the artistic life of SLSO musicians, our two choruses, and Youth Orchestra.” Read more about the Powell Hall Project here.

Watch part two below:

In the third interview segment, Caso asked Bernard about her own relationship with St. Louis and the SLSO. Bernard shared that when she was joining the institution in 2015, the unrest in Ferguson after the killing of Michael Brown motivated her, rather than discouraged her, to come into the role and serve the St. Louis community. She is interested in understanding how a cultural institution like the SLSO can be a “social agent.” The SLSO, she said, “is entertainment, but it’s also social change; it’s contributing to the fabric of a community that is evolving.”

Watch part three below:


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