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 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 traditionally underrepresented backgrounds 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.
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. She serves on several non-profit boards in Chicago. 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.
Who is your favorite musician/piece/song to listen to and why?
Honestly, my favorite musicians are CYSO musicians! Every time I listen to a rehearsal or performance I’m reminded how vibrant and creative and amazing our students are. Listening to CYSO students progress in skill and musicality over time brings me incredible joy because I know how much work goes in to developing every musical milestone!
What was the first ensemble you played in?
I was a member of Red Rose Children’ Choir of Lake County from a young age and I also loved my school band and orchestra program growing up in the Northern suburbs of Chicago. Saxophone and piano were my first instruments and I sang in choir all through college and grad school.