Inviting audiences to engage with orchestral music through non-traditional presentation styles and educational, interactive, and immersive concert experiences.

The Grammy®️-winning Experiential Orchestral (EXO) brings audiences close to the music by engaging listeners through imaginative, immersive, and interactive concert experiences. Founded by Music Director James Blachly in 2009, EXO’s performances and recordings have been described as “strikingly persuasive” by the San Francisco Chronicle and “immaculate” by Musical America, and have been praised for having “luscious tone and poise” by Classics Today

EXO was founded on collaboration and co-creation, and each curated performance is imbued with a generous spirit of celebration, facilitating the exploration of what Blachly calls, “a new experience of sound” by audiences. The orchestra’s performances take place in and outside the concert hall with audiences invited to participate in unorthodox ways. EXO has performed the music of Arvo Pärt in the Temple of Dendur at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, invited audiences to dance during Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring and Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker at National Sawdust, enveloped the audience in concerts at Lincoln Center with audience and orchestra members sitting together, and presented  Symphonie fantastique and Petrushka with circus choreography at The Muse in Brooklyn.  

Recent highlights have included a subscription concert at The Phillips Collection in Washington, DC, an immersive performance of Strauss’s Four Last Songs with cellist Andrew Yee and soprano Sarah Brailey, and the New York premiere of Julia Perry’s Concerto for Violin and Orchestra with soloist Curtis Stewart. In January 2024, EXO will perform Pärt’s masterwork Passio at the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine, offering audiences the opportunity to experience the concert while reclining on yoga mats. In March 2024, the orchestra will co-present a four-day Julia Perry Centenary Celebration and Festival in New York, coinciding with Perry’s 100th birthday that month

The world-première recording of “The Prison,” a choral symphony written in 1930 by the English composer Ethel Smyth, arrives as demands for a more representative, equitable canon are mounting. For too long, Smyth has been relegated to footnote status: an ardent suffragist who was jailed for her efforts and a prominent lesbian, she wrote what was, until 2016, the only work by a female composer to be staged at the Metropolitan Opera (“Der Wald,” in 1903). “The Prison” exerts a metaphysical gravity, not just because of the text by Henry Brewster but also because Smyth’s music calls to mind Brahms, Elgar, and even Mahler at their most visionary and searching. The conductor James Blachly elicits splendid work from the vocal soloists, Sarah Brailey and Dashon Burton, and from the Experiential Orchestra and Chorus.

Steve Smith, The New Yorker

EXO is known for imaginative and groundbreaking programming that frequently advocates for under-celebrated masterpieces and composers. The orchestra’s world premiere recording of Dame Ethel Smyth’s The Prison (1930) was released on Chandos Records in 2020 to international critical acclaim in The New York Times, Gramophone, The New Yorker, The Guardian, and many other publications. The album won the Grammy®️ for Best Classical Solo Vocal Album in 2021 – the first Grammy ever awarded for Smyth’s music. EXO’s world premiere recording of Julia Perry’s Violin Concerto, with soloist Curtis Stewart, will be released on the Bright Shiny Things label in March 2024.  

EXO is led by Music Director James Blachly and Director of Artistic Planning Pauline Kim Harris. EXO:Chamber, a series of chamber concerts, was inaugurated in 2023, curated by EXO’s Creative Team directed by Pauline Kim Harris. The Creative Team includes Henry Wang, concertmaster; Michelle Ross, co-concertmaster; Alexander Fortes, co-concertmaster; Lady Jess, principal; and Sami Merdinian, principal. EXO’s Artistic Advisors are Patrick Castillo, Brad Balliett, and Doug Balliett