Carnegie Hall’s Weill Music Institute Innovator Sarah Johnson to Receive 2013 American Express NGen Leadership Award

(WASHINGTON, June 5, 2013)— Independent Sector is proud to announce that Sarah Johnson, director of Carnegie Hall’s Weill Music Institute, is the 2013 recipient of the American Express NGen Leadership Award. Sarah is a collaborative leader who believes performing arts organizations have a responsibility as cultural citizens to demonstrate their public value and share the arts with a variety of audiences.

During her tenure at Carnegie Hall, Sarah has led transformational change within the institution and beyond it. Recent initiatives include: Link Up, which provides an open-source school curriculum, created by Carnegie Hall, to orchestras across the country and around the world free-of-charge to enrich arts education offerings in a range of communities; the award-winning Musical Connections program that partners with over 20 social service agencies serving people in healthcare settings, and correctional facilities including juvenile justice centers, homeless shelters, and senior service organizations; and the recently launched National Youth Orchestra of the United States of America. Sarah’s efforts to develop and oversee educational and community activities has enabled the Carnegie Hall team to leverage the core strengths of the historic New York City concert hall – creating forward-looking programs that serve as inspirational models for organizations across the arts.

Sarah said that winning this award is further proof that collaborative leadership works. “I am so honored to receive this award, but this is really acknowledging the contributions of so many people, because I do not do this work alone,” Sarah said. “I have an incredible, collaborative team that I am fortunate enough to lead, and we collaborate with many partner institutions and artists who help make our work extraordinary and fun.”

The American Express NGen Leadership Award recognizes one accomplished nonprofit leader age 40 or under who has demonstrated significant impact in addressing society’s critical needs. Sarah will receive the award during the John W. Gardner Leadership Dinner September 30 at “LeadOn,” the IS National Conference in New York City.

“Sarah has demonstrated that the arts are both about performance and an essential tool in community building. Her clarity of purpose is evident in the different institutions she brought together to spur community change,” said Diana Aviv, president and CEO of Independent Sector. “The success of initiatives like Musical Connections demonstrates her vision in creating new non-traditional spaces for problem solving and sharing.”

Sarah was selected from a pool of six distinguished finalists including:

  • Margaret Coady, executive director of CECP
  • Noel Poyo, executive director of National Association for Latino Community Asset Builders
  • Heather Reynolds, president and CEO of Catholic Charities Fort Worth
  • Eric Stowe, founder and executive director of Splash
  • Marshall Tuck, CEO of Partnership for Los Angeles Schools

“Every year our finalists push the boundaries of what can be achieved showcasing the vision and promise of impactful leaders under 40 across the nonprofit community,” says Timothy J. McClimon, president of the American Express Foundation. “American Express is proud to recognize the transformative impact of Sarah’s work at Carnegie Hall’s Weill Music Institute and we congratulate all the finalists.”

Nominations for the American Express NGen Leadership Award were evaluated by a selection committee of nonprofit and philanthropic leaders. The finalists submitted answers to essay questions and participated in a Twitter Townhall to share their views on leadership, impact, and the opportunities and challenges within the sector. American Express, is also the lead sponsor of the American Express NGen Fellows Program, which contributes to the development of emerging nonprofit leaders through their Foundation’s philanthropic giving initiative committed to Leadership.


About Independent Sector
Independent Sector is a nonprofit, nonpartisan coalition of approximately 600 charities, foundations, and corporate philanthropy programs, collectively representing tens of thousands of charitable groups in every state across the nation. Its mission is to advance the common good by leading, strengthening, and mobilizing the nonprofit and philanthropic community. Learn more at

About American Express
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American Express: Developing New Leaders for Tomorrow
One of American Express’ three platforms for its philanthropy is Developing New Leaders for Tomorrow. Under this giving initiative, which recognizes the significance of strong leadership in the nonprofit and sectors, American Express is making grants focused on training high potential emerging leaders to tackle important issues in the 21st century. More than 10,000 emerging nonprofit and social sector leaders worldwide have benefited from American Express leadership programs. Launched in 2008, the American Express Leadership Academy addresses the growing deficit of leadership talent in the nonprofit sector. The Academy brings together emerging leaders from a diverse set of nonprofit, social sector and non-governmental organizations.

Types: Press Release
Global Topics: Arts, Culture, and Humanities, IS Member, Leadership Development