Rashida Phillips, a St. Louis native who has worked with a range of cultural organizations, has been named the new executive director of the American Jazz Museum. She is also a jazz singer.
In a letter, the museum's board of directors said that "after a thorough and thoughtful" national search process, Phillips "rose to the top" of the field of more than 25 candidates.
"I believe all the roads of my life's journey have led me to the American Jazz Museum," Phillips said in a news release. "My professional career really began at the Institute of Jazz Studies in the Mary Lou Williams Archive and with the National Jazz Museum of Harlem, where I developed my appreciation for the worldwide contributions of jazz music and preservation of precious jazz artifacts."
Phillips will relocate from Chicago, where she served as senior director of community ventures of the Old Town School of Folk Music, the largest community school of the arts in the United States.
Since 2003, Phillips has worked with organizations such as the Chicago Humanities Festival, Chicago Arts Partnerships in Education, and the Chicago Children's Museum. She also helped launch the National Jazz Museum in Harlem.
She earned a bachelor's degree from Oberlin College and a masters degree in Jazz Studies from Rutgers University. Along with arts administration and education, she's also performed as a jazz vocalist.
Phillips will take over from Ralph Caro, former president and CEO of Swope Parkway Health Center and CEO of Samuel U. Rodgers Health Center, who was appointed as interim executive director in May 2019.
His appointment came more than a year after the museum's previous director, Cheptoo Kositany-Buckner, stepped down in the wake of a consultants's report which called for a "complete rethinking, akin to starting a new museum ... starting with its leadership." City Council members had requested the evaluation after ongoing financial challenges at the museum, including a $1 million deficit.
The museum's board of directors thanked Caro "for bringing us great stability and enhancing our operations during this time of transition." They added that the museum is now a fully staffed operation, and, under Caro's leadership, areas of earned revenue increased by 5%.
"We owe Ralph a debt of gratitude for providing this community treasure with a steady hand of leadership at this pivotal time in its history," board chair Eugene Agee said in a release.
In their letter, the board members added that they "have addressed the need for sound leadership in the selection of Ms. Phillips. We believe she will usher in a new era of innovation and leadership."
Phillips is scheduled to start in January 2020.
Laura Spencer is an arts reporter at KCUR 89.3. You can follow her on Twitter at @lauraspencer.