Eighth Blackbird Welcomes Deirdre Harrison, Chief Operating Officer

Eighth Blackbird is pleased to welcome Deirdre Harrison as its new Chief Operating Officer.

Deirdre, who served as Eighth Blackbird’s Interim Development Director beginning in July, 2017, transitioned into the role of the ensemble’s Chief Operating Officer this January.  While she remains the organization’s key development officer, she will also lead its staff as its senior administrator and serve as the group’s public face alongside the six-member ensemble, who will continue their core work as artists and co-artistic directors.

Deirdre has worked for over 17 years as a senior non-profit leader and consultant in Chicago’s arts and education sectors, bringing a long track-record of collaboratively retooling systems for organizational strength, financial stability and efficiency. A veteran of supporting non-profits through periods of transition with nimbleness and infectious energy, Deirdre previously served as the Director of Development for the MacArthur Foundation-funded initiative Creative Partners. As Director of Development and Communications, Deirdre worked with the dynamic team at Rush Hour Concerts/Make Music Chicago through its successful merger with the International Music Foundation in 2016. Between 2011-2014 she helped roll out two new campuses, drive up enrollment in multiple departments, and launch a faculty concert series for the Music Institute of Chicago as its first Director of Community Engagement, and previously served as Director of Admission and Financial Aid at the newly independent Baker Demonstration School and Global Citizenship Experience Lab School.

“I am honored and excited to join this extraordinary group of artist-entrepreneurs at a pivotal moment – 21 years in, Eighth Blackbird have come of age in so many ways! The board has never been stronger, ongoing and new partnerships are thriving, including new recording plans with Cedille records. The organization is preparing to welcome its second Blackbird Creative Lab cohort, touring the ensemble’s latest evening-length collaborative project Olagón, and continuing residency work at universities across the country. This ensemble and staff are some of the hardest working colleagues I have ever known, and the sextet produces, commissions and performs exciting new music across genres.  I hope fans and friends, old and new, will join me and raise a glass to Eighth Blackbird on May 15 at our most  .  We promise a hip, happy night of music and feasting!

A dual citizen with Eire, Deirdre lived and worked as an actress for many years in Europe, premiering a number of new plays. She helped launch YaleWomen Chicago, serves as board treasurer for the performance ensemble MOCREP, volunteers for Aunt Mary’s Storybook, assisting incarcerated parents at Cook County Jail in recording stories for their children, and performs storytimes with live, improvised music with her kids project, The Lucky Trikes. Deirdre earned a double BA in English and Theater Studies at Yale, a three-year acting certificate at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, is an alumna of Ragdale Foundation and the National Guild for Community Arts Education Leadership Institute(CAELI), and  a proud member of Actors Equity Association and British Actors Equity.


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