More than a year after beginning its search for a new president and CEO, the Boston Symphony Orchestra is expected to announce Thursday that it has found a new leader on the opposite coast: Gail Samuel, Hollywood Bowl president and conductor of the operating officer of the Los Angeles Philharmonic.
Samuel will be the first woman president of the ASF in 140 years of history. She will succeed Mark Volpe in mid-June, when he retires after 23 years.
There is no better place than the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra to understand the sophisticated inner workings of a musical organization centered on a symphony orchestra, and I will be forever grateful for the lasting relationships and experience that Mr. ‘allowed the LA Phil,’ Samuel said in the ad. The opportunity now to lead one of the world’s best orchestras, in a rapidly changing metropolitan area like Boston, is an exciting new challenge and a dream project.
Just as the LA Phil programs the Hollywood Bowl, the Boston Symphony has its orchestra, as does Tanglewood, its summer program in the Berkshires of Massachusetts. Samuel will oversee both operations as well as the Boston Pops.
A native of Angeleno, Samuel held various roles at LA Phil for over 28 years. She served as Interim President and CEO in 2017 after longtime and acclaimed LA leader Phils, Deborah Borda, left the organization for the New York Philharmonic. Ten months later, she left the role as the LA Phil hired Seattle Symphony President Simon Wood to replace Borda. Wood held the post less than two years before resigning.
Samuel was promoted to her current titles in early 2020 by Woods’ successor Chad Smith. She is responsible for the operational oversight of all LA Phils venues, including the Walt Disney Concert Hall, Hollywood Bowl, and Ford Theaters. She oversees the programming of the Bowl and Ford, and she conducts the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra.
Shortly after her appointment, she shared details of her inaugural Bowl lineup for summer 2020, which was set to feature a powerful array of female performers including Brandi Carlile, Diana Ross, Janelle Mone, Cynthia Erivo, Yuja Wang. and Brittany Howard.
The season has been canceled due to COVID-19 restrictions and marked the first time in 98 years that the legendary venue has gone dark throughout the summer.
Samuel is leaving the LA Phil at an extremely uncertain time. In May, the organization announced a pandemic-induced budget deficit of $ 80 million that triggered holidays, including about 25% of LA Phils’ full-time, non-union workforce (about 50 people ) until September. An estimated 226 seasonal Bowl employees have been laid off. This year’s annual gala was virtual and there is no set date for a return to Disney Hall or the Bowl.
The ASF has had similar struggles. In August, it laid off 50 of its 180 administrative employees. The orchestra, which had a 2019 operating budget of just over $ 100 million, said it lost $ 51.5 million in revenue due to the pandemic. Last year, the orchestra was able to raise $ 61 million, mostly from donors, a spokesperson said.
When Samuel steps into his new role in June, said BSO Music Director Andris Nelsons in the announcement, we are entering a new chapter in orchestras celebrating 140 years of history, and facing these unprecedented times of change, of challenge and opportunity with a renewed spirit of possibility.
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