Charles Burke, President & CEO
Charles Burke is the newly appointed President & CEO of Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park, one of the preeminent cultural, horticultural, and sculptural campuses in the world, located in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
Since 2014, Charles served as President and CEO of The War Memorial, a waterfront cultural campus in Grosse Pointe Farms that curates experiences focusing on arts, culture, film, patriotism, community connectivity, and leadership. His work has empowered the total transformation of The War Memorial as a regional impact organization welcoming more than 300,000 patrons with over 3,000 events annually, all while incubating more than 65 nonprofit organizations. The Nationally Registered Historic campus includes the new Fred M. Alger Center (opened in fall 2022), designed by the ROSSETTI architecture team; Les Braves II: At Water’s Edge Park and Gardens, visioned by famed international artist Anilore Banon; WM Community Foundation; Patriot Theater for arts, culture, and film; an Arts and Community Wing inclusive of multiple galleries and classrooms; and an Italian Renaissance-style estate home designed by American architect Charles A. Platt. Charles’ leadership has reimagined an institution now positioned to grow in all aspects of its diversified business lines while redefining the role of a nonprofit institution as a catalyst for a forward-thinking community.
Passionate about providing unfettered accessibility to the arts for all people, Charles spent a significant portion of his career as both an executive and orchestral conductor for the Detroit Symphony Orchestra. As Senior Director of Education for the DSO, Charles was responsible for the development of the Pincus Education Center in Midtown Detroit as well as programs such as the African American Fellowship program, a graduate-level training program to radically improve diversity in classical music; the DSO’s Civic Youth Ensembles, one of the largest youth training programs in the United States; and connecting Orchestral musicians with children from all communities and all ages through concerts, classroom interactivity, and technology-based learning. As an Orchestral Conductor and Music Director, Charles led more than 300 performances on the famed Orchestral Hall stage, specialized in working with young people and having the privilege of working with artists such as Leonard Slatkin, Itzhak Perlman, Midori, Emanuel Ax, Michael W. Smith, Marcus Belgrave, Rodney Whitaker, and George Shirley. His artistic leadership included 22 world premieres and commissions; multiple recordings; serving as a robotic computer model for ASIMO the conducting robot; and regularly working as a college instructor, adjudicator, guest conductor, and artistic consultant for organizations throughout the country.
Charles, a graduate of Leadership Detroit XXXV, enjoys several volunteer roles, including Board Director for Jefferson East, Inc., TechTown Detroit, Community Advisory Board for Beaumont Health Grosse Pointe, Editorial Board of the Grosse Pointe News, Executive Producer for Live Inspired Productions, and Michigan Youth Arts Festival. He holds degrees from George Mason University and West Virginia University, executive leadership training at the Harvard Business School and Columbia College, and as a Creative Alliances Fellow and Emerging Non-Profit Leaders Fellow for National Arts Strategies.
A Washington, D.C., metropolitan region native, Charles and his wife moved to Michigan last century to pursue graduate studies at the University of Michigan. Charles began his service-based career as a public school music teacher in Fairfax County, Virginia, earning a nomination for the National Sallie Mae First Class Teaching Award and, later, the International Network of Schools Community Partnership Award for his collaborative work between the DSO and the Detroit School of Arts. He has also been the recipient of the Grosse Pointe/Harper Woods NAACP President’s Award, which recognized his leadership and commitment toward healthy and connected communities. Today, Charles’ wife is an Executive with Mercedes-Benz North America Corporation, and together they are parents to two teenagers/young adults who constantly allow them to amplify patience as one of their top strengths.