The name of The Lancaster Chamber of Commerce & Industry’s annual dinner speaker is always a surprise.
The category of speaker, though? Not so much.
Typically, it’s a well-known politician (Bill Clinton, George W. Bush), media icon (Tom Brokaw), industrialist (T. Boone Pickens) or economist (Ben Bernanke).
This year, however, the keynote speaker is a surprise on both fronts.
It’s someone from the arts: megastar singer and songwriter John Legend, the chamber announced Friday.
“We like to mix things up. We were looking for someone contemporary and innovative,” said Cheryl Irwin-Bass, chamber vice president and chief operating officer.
The event — the chamber’s 143rd — will be held Wednesday, May 27 at the Lancaster County Convention Center from 5 to 9 p.m.
The chamber last had keynote speakers from the arts in 2010 (Benjamin Zander, conductor of the Boston Philharmonic Orchestra) and 1987 (Beverly Sills, New York City Opera general manager and retired soprano).
“First and foremost, we look for someone who can deliver a relevant, thought-provoking and appropriate message to the business community,” said Irwin-Bass.
This year, she said, the chamber opted to also search for an entertainer “who has philanthropic endeavors that fit into what the chamber and the community are doing.”
Legend fills the bill.
His personal charitable work, with an emphasis on education and community betterment, has “a lot of connections” with the chamber’s and the community’s priorities, according to Irwin-Bass.
But that was not the only advantage of bringing in Legend, she acknowledged.
“I’m not going to ignore the fact that he’s pretty huge right now. He appears to be everywhere,” said Irwin-Bass.
Legend will talk about the importance of giving back to the community, including his own effort to support quality education, the Show Me Campaign, which focuses on science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).
He also will discuss his other charitable efforts such as PopTech, a network dedicated to accelerating the positive impact of world-changing people, projects and ideas.
Legend, an Ohio native and University of Pennsylvania graduate, is a nine-time Grammy-award recipient.
Earlier this year, he also won an Academy Award and a Golden Globe for best original song, “Glory” from the movie “Selma,” that he co-wrote with the rapper Common.
Legend also performed at the Super Bowl in February.
Irwin-Bass declined to disclose how much the chamber will pay Legend, saying his contract prohibits her from disclosing the figure.
General ticket sales will begin Tuesday, March 24 at 8 a.m. and will be accepted via fax at 293-3159, scanned and emailed to Molly Crouser at the chamber, or hand delivered to the chamber at 100 S. Queen St.
Available to chamber members only, tickets are $225 per individual and $2,250 per table of 10.
Reservations will not be accepted prior to March 24 or by phone.
After a “pre-sale” of tickets earlier this month, before Legend’s appearance was announced, fewer than 400 tickets remain. Capacity is 2,450.