Peabody Johns Hopkins University Magazine

J. Ernest Green: A Maestro of Many Hats 

J. Ernest Green: A Maestro of Many Hats 

Headshot of J. Ernest Green

J. Ernest Green was happily working as an assistant in orchestral conducting when faculty artist Edward Polochick asked if he’d take on the same role in choral conducting. Lacking vocal experience and worried that it meant losing the stipend he received for orchestral conducting, he initially balked. But Polochick assured him he could do both.

And that describes Green’s path since graduating from Peabody (MM ’83, Conducting): He’s been a conductor for orchestras all over the world while leading the Annapolis Chorale (now called Live Arts Maryland) for the past 30 years.

“Whether it was fate or happenstance, the net result is that it gave me a career where I could always have a touch stone, a home base,” says Green, who has led the Chorale to expand from 54 members when he took it over to 160 members today.

It’s not been a career that’s followed the traditional track of moving from one prominent orchestra to another, a fact that at one point disturbed Green. “When you’re younger, you lament the parts of your career that you don’t have,” he says.

Yet his path allowed him to conduct a wider range of music and work with a more diverse group of performers than he would have otherwise. At one point he was leading three orchestras, three choirs and several independent projects. Among other accomplishments was being a colleague and collaborator with the late Marvin Hamlisch and a cover conductor for many years with the National Symphony Orchestra.

Along the way, Green learned how to conduct another field: marketing. He became not just the public face of the Chorale but its advocate and spokesman—leading pre-concert talks, appearing in videos, and generally getting people enthused about attending performances.

Green says his inspiration came from seeing how Broad- way promoters were selling their shows. They sold the experience of witnessing a production. Green figured that what was important was to share with audiences the emotion they could be expected to feel from seeing the live performances he was conducting.

Green says it’s essential that musical leaders learn not just how to put together a great program of music but all about the business side of the organization as well.

There’s plenty of evidence that Green has indeed added to his vocal and orchestral skills the title of Marketing Maestro. Single-ticket sales in each of the past two years have seen double-digit increases.

— Michael Blumfield