McBurney, who is currently the creative director of the orchestra's Beyond the Score lecture series, will work with Martha Gilmer, the CSO's vice president for artistic planning, on programming, educational events, panel discussions, and symposiums. He will continue to direct Beyond the Score.
The announcement follows the appointments of Bernard Haitink and Pierre Boulez as principal conductor and conductor emeritus, respectively, last month. The CSO will be without a music director while it searches for a replacement for Daniel Barenboim, who steps down next month.
The British-born McBurney studied at the Moscow Conservatory in the 1980s. He has since worked as a composer, arranger, filmmaker, teacher, and broadcaster. The brother of Simon McBurney, the director of the London collective Theatre de Complicite (now known as Complicite), he has collaborated frequently with the company on music-theater projects, and has also worked on cross-disciplinary events at Lincoln Center.
"When I began working with Gerard on our Beyond the Score series, it was immediately apparent to me that he brings a remarkably innovative and thoughtful approach to the traditional concert experience," Gilmer said. "Gerard's vast knowledge of classical music, his experience as a composer, and his background in other disciplines such as theater, radio, and documentary film, will help us expand upon the ways in which we provide our audiences with a deeper context and connection to the music performed by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra."
McBurney said, "From my very first encounter with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, I realized that this was an institution with unique human and artistic resources. It takes a rare courage to balance innovation and exploration with a passionate loyalty both to the great composers of the past and to the CSO's special role as guardian of the deep traditions of playing their music."