Veteran arts leader Chad Smith, who has been instrumental in making the Los Angeles Philharmonic one of the most forward-thinking orchestras in the United States, will be leaving his position this autumn to take over as president and CEO of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, it was revealed on Monday.
Smith, 51, who has been the executive director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic since 2019, said in an interview that the epidemic had caused him to reevaluate his goals.
Smith said that his departure had nothing to do with Dudamel, with whom he has worked extensively in the past to advance the orchestra’s youth education initiatives and raise awareness of modern music. Now that the worst of the epidemic seems to be passed, he added, is the perfect time to bring people back to music halls.
In a period of turmoil and conflict, Smith will assume the head of the Boston Symphony Orchestra.
The orchestra has amassed a $484 million endowment and a stellar reputation as both a musical and financial success in recent years. Mark Volpe led the orchestra for many years until his retirement in 2021, at which point everything began to fall apart.
Many of the orchestra’s top executives have left, including Volpe’s successor Gail Samuel, who quit suddenly in December after just 18 months on the job. (Like Samuel, he was a former LA Phil member.)
Musicians, staff, board members, and spectators of the Boston Symphony are worried about the current situation. Leaders of the orchestra, including board chair and benefactor Barbara W. Hostetter, have been silent about the issues. Smith’s nomination, she said in a statement released on Monday, will “usher in a new era of many exciting opportunities.”
Smith said that he was unafraid of the problems in Boston, saying, “The B.S.O. is going through things that all organisations go through at certain times.” He promised to help the orchestra find its footing and reevaluate its goals.
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Smith said that he will make an effort to increase the orchestra’s racial, cultural, and gender diversity in order to bring it in line with that of similar ensembles. He also expressed his desire to extend the contract of Andris Nelsons, the Boston Symphony Orchestra’s music director since 2014 and a man he praised as “extraordinary.” Nelsons’ current contract is set to expire in 2025.
Smith has been in the position of chief operations officer and vice president of creative planning at the Los Angeles Philharmonic for the last 21 years, during which time she has earned a reputation for innovative programming and creating relationships to contemporary composers. When Simon Woods, who had been CEO for less than two years, resigned suddenly in 2019, he was promoted to the position.
The Philharmonic’s musical and financial success has made it a household name, much like that of the Boston Symphony. The Hollywood Bowl in California and Tanglewood in Massachusetts are two examples of successful arts organisations that have benefitted from the popularity of their summertime outdoor performances.
The Los Angeles Philharmonic is already looking for Smith’s replacement, Gustavo Dudamel, and his departure will leave a gap. In a statement, board chair Thomas L. Beckmen said the orchestra was “confident our next leader will carry forward our values and vision and inspire the L.A. Phil to even greater heights.”
For Smith, returning to Boston is like coming home. He attended several Boston Symphony performances with Seiji Ozawa as the conductor, and he holds a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in vocal performance from the New England Conservatory. He studied European history at Tufts.