Things to Do in Fort Wayne and Beyond

Christopher Guerin

Michele DeVinney

Whatzup Features Writer

Published January 1, 2020

Heads Up! This article is 3 years old.

What can you do with a degree in English literature? Christopher Guerin, who earned both a bachelor’s and master’s degree in the subject at Northern Illinois University, used his to push the Fort Wayne Philharmonic to the world-class level it now enjoys.

While at NIU, which is located in the Chicago suburb of Dekalb, Guerin met his future wife Ruth. After finishing his graduate work, he moved to Chicago to be close to her. Following their marriage, they relocated to Colorado Springs where Ruth, a goldsmith and jeweler, had found a job. Soon Christopher would find a job of his own.

“I actually sort of stumbled into a job with the Colorado Springs Symphony,” he said. “They hired me to be a writer, but I moved into operations and marketing director and spent six years there. Then Fort Wayne came calling, and when they first approached me about the job my first reaction was, ‘I don’t want to live in Texas.’ I had no idea Fort Wayne was in Indiana.”

Guerin moved into the role of general manager at the Fort Wayne Philharmonic which ultimately became executive director, a job he held from 1985 until 2005. During that time he brought changes and new traditions to the Phil, things many might take for granted.

“I created Holiday Pops,” he said. “They didn’t have anything like that before. We launched that in 1986, and it’s become such a family tradition now which is very important to me.

“Just as important is that I raised the annual budget from $900,000 to $4 million, which is twice the size of any city of our size with the same population. What makes that important is that we were able to hire 44 full-time musicians where we had only 18 before. That improved the quality of the orchestra. I was always incredibly proud of how well the orchestra played, and that comes from having full-time musicians who play together all the time.”

Guerin also began a relationship with the Fort Wayne Ballet. Each year the Philharmonic perform with the ballet for three of their annual performances of The Nutcracker, and the spring ballet (this year it will be A Midsummer Night’s Dream) is a full collaboration, with the orchestra accompanying all four performances.

His success led to many offers to move on to other orchestras, but Guerin chose to stay in Fort Wayne. By 2005, however, he was ready for new challenges.

“I had been with the Philharmonic for 20 years and working with orchestras for 26,” he said. “That’s a lot of concerts and cocktail parties and babysitters, and Ruth was great and put up with all of it. But it was time to have some weekends off.”

In 2006, Guerin found a new career home at Sweetwater Sound where he remained until he retired in 2018. He continues to serve the community, working on several boards including the Redevelopment Commission.

Last year, Guerin published My Human Disguise, a collection of 200 sonnets, and he’s looking for a publisher for a collection of his short stories, something else one can do with a degree in English literature.

“I still write everyday,” he said. “The TV does not go on until 5:30 when I’m done writing.”


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