Charles Burke, President and CEO
Charles Burke is the President and CEO of The War Memorial, a waterfront cultural campus that curate’s 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 that embraces a culture of curiosity, accessibility, transparency, service, entrepreneurialism, and nuanced disruption.
Under Charles’ leadership, The War Memorial annually welcomes more than 250,000 patrons with over 3,000 events, all while incubating more than 50 non-profit organizations. The nationally registered historic campus includes the Crystal Ballroom; the Patriot Theater for arts, culture, and film; a television production studio; multiple art galleries; classrooms; historic gardens; and a 1910 Italian Renaissance-style estate home designed by architect Charles A. Platt. Charles’ work has delivered significant growth in all aspects of the institution’s diverse array of sustainable business lines, including Community Engagement via arts and cultural events and classes; thought-provoking Humanities programming; online and television broadcasts; strategic alignments with the nonprofit sector; premiere Hospitality events and services; endowment and governance administration; and brand advancement with creative Fund Development.
Passionate about providing 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 the Sr. Director of Education for the DSO, Charles was responsible for the development of the Pincus Education Center in Midtown Detroit as well as initiatives such as the African American Fellowship, a graduate level training program tackling diversity in classical music. Charles’s responsibilities also included the visioning and growth of the DSO’s Civic Youth Ensembles, one of the largest youth training programs in the United States and impetus for the Wu Family Academy. Further, he worked to connect world-class musicians with children of all ages and communities through concert experiences, classroom interactivity, and technology-based learning. As an Orchestral Conductor and Music Director, Charles led more than 400 performances on the famed Orchestral Hall stage, specializing in leading 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 such as Interlochen Center for the Arts, Wayne State University, and the League of American Orchestras.
Charles is a graduate of Leadership Detroit XXXV and enjoys several volunteer roles including Board Director for Jefferson East, Inc., Board Director for TechTown Detroit, the Community Advisory Board for Beaumont Health Grosse Pointe, The Editorial Board of the Grosse Pointe News, Executive Producer for Live Inspired Productions, and past Board Director for the Michigan Youth Arts Festival. He holds degrees from George Mason University, West Virginia University, and executive leadership training at the Harvard Business School, Columbia College, and National Arts Strategies.
A native of the Washington, D.C. region, 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. Recently, Charles was the recipient of the 2018 Grosse Pointe Harper Woods NAACP President’s Award, which recognizes his support and commitment to the mission of the NAACP. Today, Charles’ wife is an executive with Mercedes-Benz Financial Services USA, and together they are parents to two teenagers who constantly allow them to amplify patience as one of their top strengths.