Appointments / Auditions & Appointments / Los Angeles Philharmonic / Music News & Info: Classical

Some thoughts as the LA Phil names Simon Woods as their new CEO

The Los Angeles Philharmonic announced yesterday that Simon Woods will be their new Chief Executive Officer effective January 22, 2018. The  54-year old native of London has been President and CEO of the Seattle Symphony since 2011.

Overall, I think this is good news.  Some thoughts and observations on the announcement:

  • News of his appointment comes mere days after the LA Phil held a splashy  press conference previewing their 100th season as well as ambitious new community initiatives, and at which no announcements regarding management changes were made despite much speculation and anticipation to the contrary.  If I were a betting man (and I am), I’d say the odds are high that the plan/hope was to make the announcement at the event, but that some contracting wrinkles had not been ironed out in time.
  • The LA Phil’s commitment to adventurous programming, community outreach and education, and ambitious projects inside and outside the concert hall will almost certainly be unwavering under Mr. Woods’ administration.  According to the Seattle Times:

“Woods’ philosophy about programming both mirrors and has been influenced by L.A. Phil’s efforts to promote individual concert programs as singular events attractive to unique, if overlapping, populations. . . . ‘For me, it’s not just thinking about how you sell tickets, but how you build relationships, how you mix programs and take the symphony to people in their community,’ Woods said.”

  • Of course, given that orchestras plan seasons two or three years ahead of time, Mr. Woods’ influence on programming the centennial season is likely to be negligible, and his influence will probably not be felt for a number of years hence.  That said, his two most immediate predecessors — Willem Wijnbergen and Deborah Borda — made their presence felt rather quickly in other ways, particularly in the tone in which they operated and how they handled business and administrative issues.  With that in mind, there will be much interest in how and when Mr. Woods chooses to make his own impact.
  • Another area to watch will be how he develops a relationship with the players in the orchestra, particularly when it comes to labor contracts and personnel issues.
    • In addition to their well-earned reputation for expanding traditional expectations of a symphony orchestra, the LA Phil has a legendary record of nurturing the relationship between management and musicians.  In an era where strikes and lockouts (or the threat thereof) have become all too common at orchestras throughout the country, the LA Phil has not only avoided labor strife for 50 years, it has also raised pay and benefits for its players and it is now the best paid orchestra in the country.
    • Mr. Woods’ track record on this issue looks promising.  In August 2012, shortly after he joined the Seattle Symphony, the orchestra’s musicians voted to strike over a proposed 15% pay cut to coming on the heels of previous cuts in prior contracts complete with their own strike threats; however, the threatened 2012 strike was averted when three months later, a temporary agreement was reached.  A permanent agreement came the following year.  No concerts were ever cancelled, and the Seattle Symphony musicians have not threatened to strike since then.
  • Gail Samuel, the LA Phil’s well-regarded Executive Director, has served as Interim CEO since Ms. Borda left for the New York Philharmonic in March 2017.  Ms. Samuel, widely considered to be a candidate for the permanent position herself, will remain with the orchestra and return to her previous position.  Chad Smith, the LA Phil’s Chief Operating Officer who oversees artistic matters within the executive team, was also thought by many to be a candidate for promotion.  No announcements were made regarding any changes to his role.  How long either of them continue with the LA Phil will be the topic of much speculation, and I’m sure I speak for boatloads of people in saying that the orchestra benefits greatly by having both of them remain in their respective positions.

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Prior to Mr. Woods’ tenure in Seattle, he served as Chief Executive of the Royal Scottish National Orchestra (RSNO), one of the United Kingdom’s leading symphony orchestras; as President & CEO of the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra; and Vice President of Artistic Planning and Operations at The Philadelphia Orchestra.  He also worked as a music producer for EMI Classics for a decade.

He holds a degree in Music from Cambridge and a post-graduate diploma in conducting from the Guildhall School of Music and Drama.

Some quotes from other stories are below, followed by the full press release from the Los Angeles Philharmonic:

  • “L.A. Phil shares with the Woods-era Seattle Symphony a broad, creative emphasis on innovation and community engagement. . . . The difference is L.A. Phil’s more epic scale, with almost 300 concerts a year (compared to 200 at SSO) and annual revenues of $125 million ($32 million here). Yearlong concert scheduling between two venues brings in more patrons than L.A. Phil says it can count, while Seattle Symphony says it reaches 500,000 people through various activities.”  (Keough, Tom:  “Seattle Symphony CEO Simon Woods going to Los Angeles Philharmonic,” Seattle Times, November 16, 2017)
  • ““Everybody in our business has watched over the past 15 or 20 years as the L.A. Phil has gone from strength to strength,” Woods said. “It has grown into this extraordinary artistic entity that’s redefining how orchestras think and behave in their communities. And the prospect of being part of that was an exciting one.” “  (Vankin, Deborah:  L.A. Phil finds its new CEO in SeattleLos Angeles Times, November 16, 2017)

—————

SIMON WOODS NAMED AS

CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER

OF THE  

LOS ANGELES PHILHARMONIC

Los Angeles, November 16, 2017 – Los Angeles Philharmonic Board Chair Jay Rasulo announced today, on behalf of the Board of Directors and Music & Artistic Director Gustavo Dudamel, that Simon Woods has been appointed Chief Executive Officer, David C. Bohnett Chief Executive Officer Chair, of the Association, to begin on January 22, 2018.

Woods has served as President and Chief Executive Officer of the Seattle Symphony Orchestra since May 2011. At the LA Phil he succeeds Deborah Borda, President and CEO, who led the organization through 17 years of transformation. Gail Samuel, Acting President and Chief Executive Officer of the LA Phil since March 2017, will resume her position as Executive Director for the Association upon Simon Woods’ formal arrival in January 2018.

Woods has served as President and Chief Executive Officer of the Seattle Symphony Orchestra since May 2011. At the LA Phil he succeeds Deborah Borda, President and CEO, who led the organization through 17 years of transformation. Gail Samuel, Acting President and Chief Executive Officer of the LA Phil since March 2017, will resume her position as Executive Director for the Association upon Simon Woods’ formal arrival in January 2018.

“Simon comes to the Los Angeles Philharmonic with an impeccable reputation in the orchestral world,” Rasulo said. “He has a proven record of innovative and collaborative leadership, a deep knowledge of and commitment to music, and a passion for music education and social action. He has been instrumental in establishing the Seattle Symphony as a dynamic, forward-looking and community-focused organization, re-positioning the orchestra as one with artistic, financial and reputational success. He is a great choice for the future of the LA Phil. I would like to thank the search committee for its work and Gail Samuel for her wonderful leadership during this process. We look forward to welcoming Simon to the LA Phil family.”

“Simon has a wonderful reputation, a great knowledge of music, a passion for music education, and understands the intricacies of an organization as complex and unique as the LA Phil. I am very much looking forward to working with him as we head into our second century,” said Gustavo Dudamel, Music & Artistic Director of the LA Phil.

“It is the very greatest honor to have been chosen for this position,” said Simon Woods. “The Los Angeles Philharmonic demonstrates persuasively and passionately in every aspect of its work what a contemporary and forward-looking orchestra can be in one of the world’s great global cities. The chance to work closely with Gustavo Dudamel, the remarkable musicians, a great board, and the tremendously creative staff team is a completely inspiring prospect. I join the LA Phil with the greatest humility and admiration, and look forward to helping to lead it through the Centennial and into its next century.”

Simon Woods joined the Seattle Symphony Orchestra in May 2011. He previously served as Chief Executive of the Royal Scottish National Orchestra (RSNO), one of the United Kingdom’s leading symphony orchestras; as President & CEO of the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra; and Vice President of Artistic Planning and Operations at The Philadelphia Orchestra. For almost a decade, from the late 1980s to the late 1990s, he worked as a record producer with EMI Classics in London, where he initiated and produced recordings with many of the world’s foremost classical artists and ensembles. Born in London, Simon Woods earned a degree in Music from Cambridge University, and a post-graduate diploma in conducting from the Guildhall School of Music and Drama. He is a Board member of Cultural Access Washington and the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce. He was a Board member of the League of American Orchestras and Chair of the Group 1 Orchestra CEO group from 2015 to 2017. He is a long-standing contributor to the League’s professional development programs, including being a core faculty member for Essentials of Orchestra Management in 2016 and 2017.

###

About the Los Angeles Philharmonic

The Los Angeles Philharmonic Association, under the vibrant leadership of Music & Artistic Director Gustavo Dudamel, presents an inspiring array of music from all genres – orchestral, chamber and Baroque music, organ and celebrity recitals, new music, jazz, world music and pop – at two of L.A.’s iconic venues, Walt Disney Concert Hall (www.laphil.com ) and the Hollywood Bowl (www.hollywoodbowl.com). The LA Phil’s season at Walt Disney Concert Hall extends from September through May, and throughout the summer at the Hollywood Bowl. With the preeminent Los Angeles Philharmonic at the foundation of its offerings, the LA Phil aims to enrich and transform lives through music, with a robust mix of artistic, education and community programs. In the last decade,the LA Phil made ambitious, forward-looking advances in its artistic and social objectives. The orchestra maintains the most active commissioning program in the country and has garnered international acclaim for its interdisciplinary productions and work with new technologies. In the community, the orchestra has become a valued resource, offering such programs as YOLA (Youth Orchestra Los Angeles), which has become a model for effecting social change through music on a national stage.

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Photo credit:  Brandon Patoc

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