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Michelle Miller Burns

President & CEO

Michelle Miller Burns joined the Grammy Award-winning Minnesota Orchestra as President and CEO in September 2018. Under her leadership, the Orchestra launched a multi-year revenue growth plan to increase both contributed and earned revenue for the organization; unveiled a new leadership model for its long-running summer festival and moved quickly in the pandemic to launch This Is Minnesota Orchestra, a multi-channel series bringing the Orchestra to audiences via TV, livestream and radio that is still running today. In 2022 Burns negotiated a new agreement with Orchestra musicians that extends until 2026 and, following an extensive search, announced that Danish conductor Thomas Søndergård will become the Orchestra’s 11th music director beginning in September 2023.

Prior to her Minnesota post, Burns most recently held multiple positions during her tenure with the Dallas Symphony Orchestra, including Interim President and CEO; Executive Vice President for Institutional Advancement and Chief Operating Officer; and Vice President of Development. Under her leadership, the Dallas Symphony ratified a new three-year contract with its musicians, achieved its contributed revenue goal of $24 million, and completed its 2016-17 season with a balanced budget.

Burns began her orchestral career in the administration of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, where she held a number of positions over 15 years, including Director of Planned Giving. In 2006 she was named Vice President for Development at the Newberry Library, an independent research library for the humanities in Chicago, where she spearheaded a turnaround of the Library’s fundraising program, including leading a $25 million campaign.

Born in Iowa, Burns began violin lessons at age four, later performing as a member of the Chicago Youth Symphony Orchestra. She earned a B.M. in Arts Administration from Northwestern University, where she studied violin performance with two members of the Chicago Symphony, and subsequently completed an Orchestra Management Fellowship with the League of American Orchestras as well as the Chicago Management Institute program at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business.

Burns serves on the Northwestern University Bienen School of Music Advisory Board, The Solti Foundation U.S. Board and the Minnesota Citizens for the Arts Board. She is a past president of the Chicago Council on Planned Giving and the Junior League of Chicago. In 2020 and 2021 she was named to the “Minnesota 500,” a list of the most powerful business leaders in Minnesota created by Greenspring Media.

View a January 2023 video where Musical America's Susan Elliot interviews Burns about the multi-year process that brought Thomas Søndergård to Minnesota.