VIProfile: Cheri Friedmann

Executive Director of The Jackson Symphony Orchestra

Story by Lyda Kay Ferree, The Southern Lifestyles Lady. Photography by Woody Woodard.

Working with individuals in the arts is empowering. There is nothing like working with people who are dedicated to helping to create a quality of life for a community.
— Cheri E. Friedmann

Cheri E. Friedmann has been in arts administration for over 30 years. During this time she has been Executive Director for Cuyahoga Falls Chamber of Commerce in Ohio, Duluth Playhouse in Minnesota, Prescott Fine Arts in Arizona, and Canyon Concert Ballet, Longmont Theatre Company, Boulder Ballet and Jefferson Symphony Association in Colorado.

Ms. Friedmann moved to Jackson in August, and she became Executive Director of the Jackson Symphony in September of this year. She has a history of working with organizations that need an individual with a strong financial, budgeting or fundraising background to move the organization forward in its mission.

She received her Master’s in Arts Administration from The University of Akron in Ohio and a Bachelor of Arts in Liberal Arts degree with a double major in economics and dance choreography from Randolph-Macon Woman’s College in Lynchburg, Virginia. In addition, Cheri has been on the board of several organizations including Prescott Area Arts & Humanities Council (AZ), Northern Colorado/ Southern Wyoming Chapter of AFP (Association of Fundraising Professionals) in Colorado and First Night Worcester (MA).

VIP: What appealed to you about the position of Executive Director of The Jackson Symphony Orchestra?

Cheri E. Friedmann: This position allows me to get back into the arts. I had been out of the arts for about two years and I really missed it. There is something about working with individuals in the arts that is empowering. There is nothing like working with people who are dedicated to helping create a quality of life for a community.

VIP: Talk about your last experience with the Boulder Ballet and Jefferson Symphony Association in the Denver area.

CF: I have been in the non-profit field for almost 32 years. My last position was fundraising for a social service agency. Prior to that I worked strictly for arts organizations and one Chamber of Commerce. I have done everything from program management to box office and marketing all the way up to volunteer development, fundraising and finance. In many cases I was working in a one to three-person office. For me an Executive Director always has a subtitle and it is a jack of all trades.

VIP: Are you a native of Colorado?

CF: Yes, I am a native Coloradoan. I was raised in California. My family came to California in the 1880s. They were one of 13 Jewish families offered farm land in Cotapaxi, a mining area in Colorado. We were the first Jewish settlers there. It is still a big mining community. My great-great grandfather, who was one of the 13 families, worked for the court system there after selling the land in Cotapaxi and moving to Denver. He spoke 11 languages. At night he taught English as a second language to people coming into the community. My family had a grocery store. I have a lot of family there now.

VIP: What are your hobbies?

CF: I love to read and I read a variety of genres of books and magazines and online articles. I love cooking, especially if there is somebody for whom I can cook. I often use my own recipes. I basically look in the frig and put items together to create a meal. On Friday evenings, I go to the synagogue for their services. It allows me to decompress and really gives me the opportunity to sit back, take stock of the day and plan the next day.

VIP: What do you enjoy about living downtown?

CF: I really enjoy spending time downtown where there are events going on. I attended the International Festival. I enjoy the various parades around here, and I really, really enjoy the Farmers’ Market. I have yet to experience The AMP.

VIP: Describe an ideal day.

CF: If it’s for work, it’s having time to go through what I’m looking forward to that day, talking to individuals who support the organization, who stop in to purchase tickets or talk about making a donation or who have questions about the organization; working with the JSO staff, which is wonderful; and moving things forward. We are creating a series of short videos that we can use to promote our programs. Two of our staff members are creating the content for those videos.

The Kirkland Cancer Center has an integrated medicine program. JSO is working on a video on this Center, which has a fabulous program. Our JSO work really does have a major impact on people who have cancer.

VIP: Do you enjoy travel? If so, what are your favorite destinations?

CF: I do a lot of cross country driving. I’ve driven across a good portion of the US and Southern Canada, which is absolutely gorgeous. From Michigan up above New York, the countryside is beautiful and the small communities you go through are well worth visiting. I jump in my car and take a road and see where it leads me, stopping all the way at places that catch my eye. I have met some of the most incredible people on my journeys.

Several times I’ve driven from Minnesota down to Texas and Colorado. There is a Gray Horse memorial being done by the grandchildren of the artists who sculpted the presidents at Mt. Rushmore. At the base of the memorial are Indian artists who sell their woven goods, jewelry and pottery.

VIP: What are the Jackson Symphony Orchestra goals for 2017?

CF: The first goal is to increase our audience whatever program it happens to be. We want more people to attend the Starlight Symphony and get the word out and attract more people to our classical and pop concerts throughout the year. We need to build our base here. We are trying to increase our budget so we can go to other communities with our programs. We want to bring in the best musicians we possibly can for the orchestra so that we can continue to improve the quality of the music that people are coming to hear. Our musicians are fabulous! We would love to have musicians who are passionate about music come in and audition for us.

VIP: Talk about new programming in 2017.

CF: We started on this some time ago. Now we are on the tail end of finalizing next season. Laura Butler, our marketing director, is just waiting to work on promoting next season. We’re looking to update the look of our marketing campaign to bring more energy to our offerings.


What to Know

The Jackson Symphony Orchestra
207 E. Lafayette Street, Jackson, TN 38301
(731) 427-6440
Social Media: Facebook and Twitter