Jessica Satava is the new executive director of Johnstown Symphony Orchestra, now in its 91st season. She started her new position with JSO Aug. 1. Satava and her husband, Joe, recently moved to Johnstown from Baltimore.
She previously served as concert operations supervisor at the Peabody Institute of the Johns Hopkins University and manager of Aspen Chamber Symphony at Aspen Music Festival and School. She holds a master’s degree from Peabody Institute, a bachelor’s degree from Bethel University and earned a certificate in management development from the Johns Hopkins Carey School of Business. In July, she was accepted after a selective process to attend the League of American Orchestras Essentials of Orchestra Management 2019hosted by the Los Angeles Philharmonic.
Where did you grow up?
I was born in Baltimore, but moved to northern Indiana as a small child, so I’m an odd mixture of Mid-Atlantic and Midwestern.
Tell us about your family.
Joe and I are about to celebrate our 11th anniversary, and we’re so excited to be conveniently situated in Johnstown so close to our family in Western Maryland, Pittsburgh, and Cleveland. From that sentence, you will note that there is a lot of football rivalry going on in our family!
Do you have interests other than music?
Of course, music is my passion and first love, but when I need a break, (yes, that does happen!) I absolutely love sewing. My mom taught me to sew when I was growing up, and I enjoy making a lot of the clothing I wear.
Do you play an instrument?
Yes! I started college as a piano major, before switching to voice, and spent 15 years performing as a professional soloist and choral singer. I did have brief interludes with the organ and horn, but I’m VERY relieved to report there are no existing recordings!
What are your initial impressions of the orchestra?
The Johnstown Symphony Orchestra enjoys a great reputation for artistic excellence and enormous support from their community. We’re so fortunate to have such a vibrant ensemble in our city.
What are your initial thoughts on Johnstown?
There is such a strong sense of identity and pride in this community. We love the contrast of the traditional with the progressive in Johnstown, with historic churches next to urban murals. It’s perfect that Maestro Blachly has chosen to highlight the diverse cultural heritage of Johnstown through music with our season, Made in Johnstown, because it’s a tour of the ethnic history of the town built right into my job! Also, everyone is so friendly! Joe and I have been warmly welcomed everywhere we go. The tree-lined streets, the mountains, the neighborhoods — it’s truly a unique and beautiful region, with so much to offer. We are big fans of the Mill House Café, which is walking distance from our home, we love pancakes and bacon at Our Son’s, and one of our first lunches in town was at Balance Restaurant. The Brussels sprouts are phenomenal!
As executive director, what do you see as the most important part of your work?
Simply this: to be a voice for the broad and lasting positive impact the Johnstown Symphony Orchestra has on our city. If you haven’t heard them yet, you HAVE to! The experience of communal music-making that an orchestra provides is powerful, awe-inspiring and it can uplift, heal, and connect people.
And you know what else? It’s just a really fun night out! We have a great time! You can get dressed up, or come as you are. Yes, a ticket costs a little more than going to the movies, but it’s considerably less than a football game, and you can hear and see people onstage who have devoted their lives to learning to play together and perfecting this art form! It’s an unbelievable experience.
Do you have a vision for what you would like to see take place for the orchestra?
First, I want to hear from all of you about what you want from your orchestra. But I’d love to find ways to expand our reach, offer access to arts education to even more children, and to give even more people a chance to sing and play together.
Our Music Director, James Blachly, said, “Through this music, we can be reminded of the best parts of our humanity, and process emotions and feelings we otherwise can’t access.” I couldn’t have said it better. Music and the arts are crucial to our children’s education and our self-expression as adults. I’m here to help ensure that everyone in the Allegheny region has the chance to access that through the Johnstown Symphony Orchestra. I’ll look forward to greeting you the next time you’re at the Pasquerilla Performing Arts Center for a JSO concert — I can’t wait to meet my new neighbors!
To learn more about the 2019/20 season, Made in Johnstown, go to www.johnstownsymphony.org