On Friday, 4 September 2015 – The Board of the Johannesburg Philharmonic Orchestra (JPO) announced the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between the Boards of the KwaZulu-Natal Philharmonic Orchestra (KZN PHIL) and the JPO. Bongani Tembe has been appointed Chief Executive and Artistic Director of the JPO.

In affirming their joint commitment to the development and continuation of the performance of orchestral music in South Africa, the two Boards have pledged to combine strengths to ensure the long term sustainability of the orchestras in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng.

This is intended to not only maintain the regularity of symphony concerts in both provinces, to ensure consistent and excellent performances by the musicians, but also to expand the outreach and educational programmes designed to benefit the greater communities of our country.

Mr Bongani Tembe currently serves as Chief Executive and Artistic Director of the KZN PHIL, with years of experience executing high profile international and South African projects. He has been extremely successful in leading the KZN PHIL over the past 21 years, and has created a stable and world-class orchestra that has been lauded for its performance excellence in South Africa and Europe. He has accepted the additional appointment as Artistic Director of the JPO with immediate effect and will become CEO and Artistic Director of both Orchestras as from 1 January 2016.

Mr Tembe brings extensive international functional leadership experience as the Commissioner-General of the SA-UK Seasons

2014 and 2015 – a cultural exchange partnership by South Africa’s Department of Arts and Culture and the United Kingdom’s British Council. Previously, he oversaw the highly successful France-South Africa Seasons in 2012 and 2013 as Commissioner-General.

Hailed as South Africa’s pre-eminent arts manager of classical music, Mr Tembe is a graduate from the prestigious Juilliard School in New York and is South Africa’s first black professional opera singer. Mr. Tembe has received some wide spread accolades by bringing to South Africa leading artists and orchestras, including Renée Fleming, Vladimir Ashkenazy, Pinchas Zuckerman, Zubin Mehta and the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra. His strong vision fosters high artistic values and a commitment to engaging with the diverse communities of South Africa.

The Acting Chairman of the JPO Board, Mr Stephen Jurisich, said “The Board is delighted that the JPO will have the benefit of Mr Tembe’s vast experience and visionary leadership, and looks forward to a new era for the orchestra that will not only benefit the JPO musicians who have endured the hardships of the last few years, but also the loyal supporters who have never lost faith in the orchestra and the broader communities who will be engaged in education and development programmes”.

Mr Duncan Gibbon will remain as interim CEO until the end of the year to assist with the transition process.



The Johannesburg Philharmonic Orchestra (JPO) was formed in May 2000 by a group of committed and resilient musicians following the demise of the National Symphony Orchestra. It has continued to consistently perform regular series of Symphony Seasons, attracting the best international and local soloists and conductors, as well as being the orchestra of choice for State functions in Gauteng.

There is a sincere commitment to consistent high standards of performance, with the aim of not only delivering quality performances to audiences, but also establishing the bench mark for aspirant musicians, not only those who are tutored through the JPO’s own educational arm (the Academy) but to those who perform in the many youth orchestras and ensembles around Gauteng and elsewhere. The JPO strives to be nationally and internationally recognized as the country’s leading philharmonic orchestra, and to ensure the ongoing sustainability and growth of music traditions, nurturing the accessibility of music to a broader community. It also endeavours to challenge the prevailing perception of classical music performances being elitist and Euro-centric by appealing to a truly egalitarian local audience, performing music that incorporates the greatest examples of both classical and South African music genre. For more information visit: