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BW grad orchestrates change at Canton Symphony

When she took over at age 25, Baldwin Wallace arts management alumna Rachel Hagemeier '19 became one of the youngest symphony orchestra CEOs in the country.

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Rachel Hagemeier '19

When Rachel Hagemeier '19 graduated from Baldwin Wallace University with degrees in arts management & entrepreneurship and bassoon performance, she brought her passion for music and community to her first job out of college as manager of education and community engagement at the Canton Symphony Orchestra.

Hagemeier immediately made an impact in the organization through innovative programs aimed at promoting diversity, equity and inclusion in classical music.

That early success fast-tracked her to the top of the organization.

CEO by age 25

In late 2022, at just 25 years old, Hagemeier became the youngest president and CEO in the Canton Symphony Orchestra's history.

Hagemeier now oversees all elements of the Canton Symphony, from education initiatives to concert production. Her appointment speaks volumes about the creativity and maturity she brings as a changemaker dedicated to engaging her community.

The appointment is "a dream come true," according to Hagemeier. "I have seen the impact classical music can have on a community, and I am overjoyed to continue being a part of this incredible work."

Innovating and leading

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Hagemeier, far left, at a Memorial Concert and Celebration of Life for the Canton Symphony's longtime conductor, Maestro Gerhardt Zimmermann, who passed away in 2023.

In 2020, Hagemeier co-created the podcast "Orchestrating Change," featuring conversations about critical issues facing orchestras today. The podcast has garnered national attention while spotlighting the need for more diverse programming and audiences.

Building on the podcast's message, Hagemeier launched the Orchestrating Change Leadership Program in 2021 to empower young leaders to drive change in orchestras. The intensive summer program developed projects to realize greater diversity and access locally. The first cohort designed an instrument instruction initiative to serve students in Southeast Canton, which received funding to launch.

"COVID-19 was devastating to many and especially the arts. We had to get creative and stay relevant in our community. From this came both the podcast and the leadership program."

The orchestra is currently in the midst of a memorial campaign after losing its longtime conductor, Maestro Gerhardt Zimmerman, who passed away in 2023.

Bold vision developed at BW

Hagemeier's bold vision and ability to catalyze action stem from her well-rounded BW education. From managing an opera production to interning with Oklahoma City Ballet, Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival and others during her time at BW, she gained hands-on leadership experience as an undergrad.

"The practical experience I got working for organizations in my many required internships set me up to succeed in the workplace," she recalls about her time at BW. "Beyond that, the freedom I felt to create and push the boundaries in both my music and coursework has given me the confidence to do the same in my job. I have been lucky enough to start my own projects here and see that supported by the staff and the symphony."

Today, Hagemeier exemplifies how BW prepares graduates to make an immediate difference by doing what they love.

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