Susan Lape

Susan Lape has served as Executive Director of the Chicago Youth Symphony Orchestras since 2017.  A dynamic and collaborative leader, Susan’s vision for CYSO centers around four strategic goals: positioning CYSO as a leader in equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI), building CYSO’s national reputation for creativity and artistic excellence, expanding CYSO’s fundraising capacity, and nurturing financial and organizational sustainability.    

Susan led an organization-wide inclusion audit in 2018 which resulted in a new comprehensive EDI plan for CYSO. She also facilitated CYSO’s founding role in the Chicago Musical Pathways Initiative (CMPI), which aims to build a robust Chicago-area training pathway for talented student musicians from backgrounds traditionally underrepresented in classical music, funded by a $3.5M grant from Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.  CYSO’s role on the advisory council for CMPI as well as CYSO’s many partnerships with Chicago Public Schools seek to drive systems change to remove barriers for musicians of color.  

CYSO continues to build its reputation for artistic excellence under Susan’s leadership.  CYSO musicians were called “alarmingly skilled” by the San Francisco Chronicle for their playing on “Winged Creatures,” a Grammy nominated commercial album featuring CYSO superstar alumni Anthony McGill and Demarre McGill. CYSO students have also appeared on Stephen Colbert’s The Late Show and CNN’s The Fourth in America during her tenure, for a combined audience of 350 million people.  

Susan has ushered CYSO through a period of remarkable growth, doubling gala and individual giving contributions.  

Susan received her undergraduate degree in music from Stanford University, and her master’s degree in musicology from the University of Oxford.  She previously served as Executive Director of the Lake Forest Symphony, a fully professional symphony based in the Chicago suburbs.  She serves on several non-profit boards in Chicago including the International Music Foundation, Beyond this Point, and the Illinois Council of Orchestras.  In 2016, Susan was one of nine participants in the League of American Orchestra’s prestigious Emerging Leaders Program.   

She is a regular speaker at League of American Orchestra events as well as speaking engagements involving Chicago’s music education community.