BY ANDREW PATNER
For the Sun-Times
Jeff Alexander does not officially take up his duties as president of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra Association until Monday. But he has already hit the ground running with the announcement Thursday morning that a highly regarded international orchestra administrator will fill the top administrative artistic planning role at Orchestra Hall starting in March.
Cristina Rocca, who currently holds a similar position at the Orchestre National de France in Paris, will succeed Martha Gilmer, who spent her entire 35-year professional career with the CSOA before her appointment as CEO of the San Diego Symphony starting this fall.
Rocca, 54, seems tailor-made for the current CSO. Like music director Riccardo Muti, who has worked with her, she is Italian. The Bologna native has a degree and graduate diploma in music and another diploma in arts administration and has worked in important artistic administrative slots in France, England and Italy as well as at the top-tier Cleveland Orchestra in the United States. Fluent in English, Italian and French, she has also worked closely with major radio, video, television and web organizations, areas Muti and Alexander have said they wish to boost here.
The key role of the artistic planning VP is underscored by its being the only endowed administrative position at the CSOA: the Richard and Mary L. Gray Chair.
Rocca will work with Muti and Alexander on all CSO concert and season planning, new programs and guest artists. She will also work with other artistic staff on guest artists and groups for classical, jazz, world and contemporary music concerts who appear under the Symphony Center Presents banner.