Southwest Michigan Symphony Orchestra announces new executive director

Published 12:04 pm Wednesday, May 18, 2022

ST. JOSEPH — The Southwest Michigan Symphony Orchestra Board has announced its new executive director.

Jessica Ishmael has been appointed to the position following the impending retirement of Sue Kellogg after 22 years at the helm. 

Ishmael was selected from a pool of candidates interviewed by the SMSO board and hired in time to coordinate a six-week overlap to ensure a smooth transition for the organization.

Ishmael, who officially steps into the role effective June 1, earned a Bachelors in Education from Western Michigan University in 2006 and a Masters in Library and Information Science from Wayne State University in 2010. After an upward-mobile career in public libraries spanning more than 15 years, Ms. Ishmael brings programming and event coordination experience specializing in targeting youth and young professional audiences as well as 4.5 years of experience as the library director of a Class IV Library (serving a population of up to 24,999) and managing a $1.2 million budget. 

“Coming to the SMSO was an alignment of stars,” Ishmael said. “I know Sue from a regional Peer Mentor group, and not long after resigning from the Library, I learned of her upcoming retirement. A colleague of ours encouraged me to put my hat into the ring. … I’m excited to contribute my energy, and organizational and collaboration skills to the SMSO. I’m very glad that such a great opportunity emerged to stay in the local area and is a mutual good fit.”

SMSO Board President Bill Downey indicated that he feels Ishmael has a lot of resources from which to draw.

“We are so excited to bring Jessica on board as our new Executive Director,” he said. “Her energy and creativity are a fantastic fit for helping us bring new ideas to the table and then guide them to fruition. We’re looking forward to reaching new levels of excellence and community engagement under her leadership.”

Coming on board as executive director, Ishmael will also begin work at the same time as a new music director for the SMSO.

“We have a true gem in our midst by having a professional symphony and we as an organization want to share that with as many people in our Berrien County community as possible,” she said. “I’m looking forward to working with our new music director to explore how we can continue to diversify our programming to expand our audience.”