Terre Haute Symphony Orchestra Names New Executive Director, Samantha Johnson-Helms

Terre Haute Symphony Orchestra Names New Executive Director, Samantha Johnson-Helms

(Terre Haute, Indiana) – The Terre Haute Symphony Orchestra has exciting news coming out of the COVID pandemic; the announcement of new Executive Director, Samantha Johnson-Helms.

No stranger to the Terre Haute Symphony Orchestra (THSO), Johnson-Helms (or Sammy, as she is known) has been the Symphony’s Principal Clarinet since 2013, along with serving as the organization’s Personnel Manager in 2018 and recently working as the Marketing Manager.

“I’m excited to finally take all that I have learned from my music degrees and my work experience and apply it to leading the Terre Haute Symphony Orchestra toward a strong and lasting future in the Wabash Valley,” Johnson-Helms says.

Johnson-Helms with Chamber President Kristin Craig.

Long-term objectives Johnson-Helms hopes to bring to the THSO include increased engagement and collaboration with other arts organizations and Terre Haute businesses and corporations. She says the partnerships will broaden the symphony’s outreach programs in music education and the THSO’s annual Adventures in Music concerts for children. Johnson-Helms also notes plans for live-streamed events and expanding the symphony’s presence on social media and beyond.

“Our Terre Haute Symphony Orchestra is thriving, and we’re excited to welcome Sammy who will bring her talents and energy as our new Executive Director to carry the organization forward,” says THSO Board President Tonya Balch. “Our community is so fortunate to have such a professional and award-winning group of musicians that bring their musical gifts to this community and to all of West Central Indiana.”

A graduate of Butler University with a Bachelor of Music degree in Clarinet Performance, Johnson-Helms also holds a Master’s in Clarinet Performance from Indiana University Jacob’s School of Music and will soon wrap her Doctorate, also at Indiana University.

“I’m extremely excited to partner with our new Executive Director to expand the positive impact our organization can have on our community,” says David Bowden, THSO Artistic Director. “Sammy and I have been working together since 2013 as musicians and recently within the organization as the THSO Board viewed her Marketing work as Executive Director preparation. It has been a wonderful way to transition to this joyful day!”


More on Samantha (Sammy) Johnson-Helms

Johnson-Helms is a native Hoosier born in Ft. Wayne, Indiana but grew up in Columbus, Indiana. After graduating from Columbus North High School, she pursued her Bachelor of Music degree in Clarinet Performance at Butler University in Indianapolis, Indiana.

The summer before her Master’s degree at Indiana University Jacobs School of Music, Johnson-Helms served as an intern at Cook Pharmica (now Catalent) that would open a door to new interests and skills outside of music performance.

As she finished her Master’s in Clarinet Performance, Johnson-Helms continued to work part-time at Cook Pharmica (where she also met her husband) and quickly became a subject matter expert with Microsoft SharePoint.

Upon graduating from IU with her Master’s, she was offered a full time position with Cook. Just a few months later, she won the audition for Principal Clarinet of the Terre Haute Symphony Orchestra.

During her tenure at Cook, Johnson-Helms worked in Operational Excellence where she was responsible for leading process improvement projects and rapid improvement events in which SharePoint became a highly used tool. At this time, she received training and Black Belt certification in Six Sigma, a set of techniques and tools to reduce process variation and cost.

In 2015, Johnson-Helms decide to return to school to begin her Doctorate at IU in Clarinet Performance and continued to work part-time at Cook. It was during her Doctorate that Sammy began to discover her interest in arts administration. She decided to do a minor in arts administration and quickly grew passionate for marketing,

“I realized I had this whole other set of skills and interests in addition to performing that I could use to further orchestra development and secure a future for a symphony in a community,” she says. “As a performer, our biggest fear is an orchestra or ensemble going out of business. It’s not unheard of.”


About the Terre Haute Symphony Orchestra

The Terre Haute Symphony Orchestra, now entering its 95th season, is the oldest professional orchestra in the state of Indiana, working to provide ‘Great Music! Close to Home.” 

At its core, the orchestra presents concerts of great music performed with passion and excellence in audience-friendly formats in addition to offering educational opportunities to children and adults. The high-quality programming includes the great masterworks of orchestral repertoire, pops programming, outstanding guest artists, and music of our time.