Christian Schõrnich joined his wife, Eva Burmeister, this year at the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra. Burmeister, a PSO violinist, and Schõrnich, the orchestra’s COO, live in Mt. Lebanon with their sons, Julian, left, and Adrian.
Years ago, Eva Burmeister was playing violin for the Gewandhaus orchestra in Leipzig, Germany, when she noticed an Easter egg that held a clue to her future. The Gewandhaus has a wall of stickers from visiting orchestras such as the New York Philharmonic, Boston Philharmonic and other distinguished ensembles from all over the world. What she saw was a sticker for the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra— where she now performs and also is married to the new COO, Christian Schörnich.
Schörnich and Burmeister live in Mt. Lebanon with their sons, Adrian, 3, and Julian, 1. He joined the management team this year after the PSO hired Melia Peters Tourangeau as its new president and CEO and appointed Devin McGranahan as the board chair in 2015.
Schornich considers himself and the other new PSO leaders as ambassadors, working to increase the the audience base, to nurture people who love the symphony and to maintain the orchestra’s world class reputation. “It is not easy, because we are not in a large city like New York or Boston, but we present the same level of excellence,” he says. “There are challenges for us, but we present a great opportunity for Pittsburgh.”
Originally from Düsseldorf, Germany, Schörnich has called many places home and worked in various fields before landing in Pittsburgh. He most recently spent 10 years at the United Nations as a senior consultant in the department of economic and social affairs, a job that took him to places as distant as Afghanistan, Mozambique and Sudan. He also has worked as a project coordinator for the Center for Applied Research in Boston and as senior manager of Munich International Airport.
His love of music was born while studying at a conservatory in Munich. “I have a second passion, and that is singing,” says Schörnich, a baritone, “I stopped doing it because my career at the airport kicked off… but it gave me a great understanding of music, and I became a frequent visitor of opera houses.”
Burmeister was a violinist at the prestigious Metropolitan Opera in New York, when Schönich’s frequent patronage brought them together. A Julliard grad, she has played for orchestras and ensembles all over the world. “Just a few months after getting to know each other, she won the auditions at the PSO and got to move here,” says Schörnich, who is delighted to finally join her and their family in Pittsburgh after three years of splitting his time between Pittsburgh and New York. “I got to see wonderful and dangerous places,” he says of his work at the UN, “but it was time to move on.”
When still living in New York, Schörnich joined the family in Pittsburgh nearly every week and got to know the PSO and its staff and musicians. “I started developing an instinct that my perfect job would be as COO here…,” he says. “This job combines my skills in a perfect way with my passion for music and my love for the arts.”
Though still toddlers, Schörnich’s children are developing a love for music, just like their parents. Adrian received a miniature violin for Christmas after asking for one for months. “Obviously he’s butchering it,” laughs Schörnich. “It’s really more like a Rolling Stones concert than anything [*mimes smashing an instrument off the ground*].”
Eva Burmeister also performs with the Mostly Mozart Festival Orchestra at Lincoln Center in New York.
The boys are also frequent attendees at the PSO, and Adrian likes to look for one of his favorite things, Fiddlesticks, the large brown and white “cat” in a conductor’s jacket that serves as a mascot for the series that introduces children of all ages to music. To Adrian’s surprise, Fiddlesticks is not present at the adult concerts the boys sometimes attend. “He believes the big cat belongs to all classical music,” says Schornich, “We sometimes have to tell him the cat is home sleeping.”
Schörnich is looking forward to what 2016 has in store for the PSO, particularly its European tour. Music Director Manfred Honeck will lead the PSO on a 14-concert trip from May 17 to June 5 that will take the orchestra to Germany, Austria, Switzerland and Belgium. Click here to see the PSO European tour schedule.
“We have the opportunity to be in the concert halls where the best play,” says Schörnich. “It first verifies the level we are at, and second, leaves the stamp of our community in all of the great concert halls.
“Which is why I’m so thrilled to get this job,” he continues. “There is a lot of business, marketing, sales, artistic, building management, PR and much more. But at the end of the day, it all rallies around the product. And we have such an excellent product that I am motivated to do the job.”