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Chad Smith to Lead Boston Symphony Orchestra as Next President and CEO

A visionary credited with advancing the orchestral music tradition through cutting-edge programming and cultivating industry-defining partnerships, Smith brings strategic expertise, commitment to musical excellence, and a tested ability to expand audiences and generate revenue

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The Boston Symphony Orchestra (BSO) today announced the appointment of Chad Smith, one of the country’s leading orchestral music executives, as the institution’s next President and Chief Executive Officer, effective early Fall 2023.

Smith currently serves as the Chief Executive of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, a role he has held for four years, and at which he worked in close partnership with Music & Artistic Director Gustavo Dudamel to establish and advance several of the most impactful orchestral programs of the 21st Century. During this tenure, Smith led the LA Phil’s artistic and business teams to propel record financial growth year-upon-year and invest in visionary programs to foster a culturally diverse talent pipeline and expand new audiences.

As the Julian and Eunice Cohen President and CEO of the BSO, Smith will manage the Boston Symphony Orchestra, under the direction of Andris Nelsons, the Boston Pops, under the direction of Keith Lockhart, and Tanglewood, bringing a unique blend of experience both as an artist and a seasoned executive for some of the world’s most beloved arts organizations. Relying on that insight and experience, Smith will be charged with sustaining the BSO’s international reputation for orchestral excellence and establishing a premier slate of programming initiatives to foster renewed arts appreciation among audiences and deepen the institution’s community and civic engagement. The appointment marks Smith’s return to Boston, where he earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in vocal performance at the New England Conservatory of Music and an undergraduate degree in history at Tufts University.

“Chad is an extraordinarily accomplished executive with a track record of unrivaled success at producing environments where orchestras thrive, audiences experience orchestral music in both traditional and non-traditional ways, and one-of-a-kind partnerships flourish,” said John Loder, Vice Chair of the BSO’s Board of Trustees and Chair of the Search Committee that recommended that the Board appoint Smith. “A tested leader with deep experience in all aspects of orchestral administration, and a conservatory-trained classical musician, Chad possesses a singular ability to balance new programming initiatives with the critical preservation of artistic tradition at the highest level. The BSO has a long history of setting standards for the entire orchestral field, and Chad brings to the BSO a demonstrated commitment to sustaining excellence and increasing impact.”

Throughout his career, Smith has served as a champion of composers, emerging conductors, and soloists, with a passion and skill for honoring the legacy of the orchestral art form while helping to steward a culturally vibrant and diverse future. One of his signature focuses has been the creation of performance environments and venues that offer a rich and expanding musical repertoire, celebrate new talent, and attract broad audiences.

“I see endless opportunity to support and grow those things which make the BSO so very
special, impactful in Boston, and revered around the world – from the Orchestra’s long standing prominence in the legendary Symphony Hall, to the beloved Boston Pops, the Tanglewood festival, the Tanglewood Learning Institute, and the Tanglewood Music Center, where I was a student for two Summers,” said Smith. “Undoubtedly, the Orchestra thrives at the center of it all – a cultural jewel for the city, as well as the arts community locally and beyond. Throughout my career I have been fortunate to partner with three extraordinary artistic directors, and one of the things I love most about these collaborations is the opportunity to empower creative artists to do their very best work. I look forward to partnering with BSO Music Director Andris Nelsons, the brilliant players, the dedicated staff, and the Board of Trustees to keep building on one of the most storied legacies in music. I am deeply grateful to the Board of Trustees for entrusting me with this tremendous honor.”

“All of us at the Boston Symphony Orchestra—musicians, staff, and board of trustees and advisors—warmly welcome Chad Smith to the BSO family this fall as President and CEO,” said Andris Nelsons, the Ray and Maria Stata Music Director. “We look forward to partnering with Chad to move the organization into a bright and promising future, where we will continue to treasure our rich legacy of achievement while embracing our mission to grow and evolve for our communities here in Boston, the Berkshires, and throughout the world.”

Smith and Nelsons will lead an impressive artistic team at the BSO, additionally comprised of Keith Lockhart, the Julian and Eunice Cohen Boston Pops Conductor, Seiji Ozawa, Music Director Laureate, John Williams, the George and Roberta Berry Boston Pops Conductor Laureate, Thomas Wilkins, the BSO Artistic Advisor, Education and Community Engagement and Germeshausen BSO Youth and Family Concerts Conductor, and James Burton, the BSO Choral Director and Conductor of the Tanglewood Festival Chorus, Alan J. and Suzanne W. Dworsky chair.

Smith’s affiliation with the Los Angeles Philharmonic has lasted more than two decades, in a number of creative and leadership roles, culminating with his appointment as the Chief Executive Officer in 2019. As CEO, Smith has overseen one of the largest and most vibrant orchestras in the world, which presents hundreds of concerts annually at multiple venues, with an operating budget that exceeds $150 million – the largest of any orchestral organization in the world. Among the visionary programs created during his tenure at the LA Phil is the acclaimed Youth Orchestra of Los Angeles (YOLA), and its Frank Gehry-designed facility, the Beckmen YOLA Center. Under the artistic leadership of Maestro Dudamel, YOLA provides free instruments, intensive music instruction, academic support, and leadership training to close to 1700 young people in communities across Los Angeles County, and the cutting-edge facility houses daily instruction and city-wide performance events. As CEO, Smith launched the LA Phil Humanities program, designed to promote dialogue among artists and audiences in order to contextualize classical music for the contemporary world. Programming includes festivals, speaker series, scholarly publications, art installations, and curated projects to build community involvement.

“This is an exciting day for the BSO, as we celebrate our outstanding traditions and usher in a new era of many exciting opportunities with Chad Smith,” said Barbara W. Hostetter, Chair, Board of Trustees. “The Board of Trustees is immensely impressed with Chad’s vast accomplishments and his vision for the future. We extend our thanks to John Loder for his leadership of the Ad Hoc President and CEO Search Committee and to all search committee members for their careful, thorough work. We also thank Jeffrey D. Dunn, who has been playing such an important role as interim CEO since January 2023.”

Immediately prior to his CEO appointment in 2019, Smith served as the LA Phil’s Chief Operating Officer, where he oversaw artistic programming, marketing communications, production, orchestra operations, media, and learning initiatives.

Smith began his career in 2000 with Michael Tilson Thomas at the New World Symphony – a post-graduate training ensemble for young musicians preparing for careers in classical music. He first joined the LA Phil in 2002 and was responsible for planning the orchestra’s Green Umbrella new music series, as well as its classical programming at the Hollywood Bowl. After briefly serving as the New York Philharmonic’s head artistic planner, in 2006 Smith returned to the LA Phil in the expanded role of Vice President of Artistic Planning, a position he held until being named COO in 2015.

Smith is a trustee of the New England Conservatory, an advisory board member of the Music Academy of the West, and a member of the Executive Committee for the Avery Fisher Artist Program. He also served as Artistic Director for the 2020 Ojai Music Festival. Smith, 51, grew up in Pennsylvania, and holds a Bachelor of Arts in European History from Tufts University. He earned both Bachelor and Master of Music degrees in Vocal Performance from the New England Conservatory.

Smith was selected following a search process that began in January 2023 and approved unanimously by a full Board of Trustees vote. Search Committee members were BSO Trustees Todd Golub, Barbara Hostetter, David Howse, John Loder, Joshua Lutzker, and Wendy Shattuck, and Edward Gazouleas, Provost of the Curtis Institute of Music and Interim Director of the Tanglewood Music Center, with consultation from BSO orchestra members and staff. To allow for a seamless transition, Jeffrey D. Dunn, who was appointed interim CEO following the resignation of Gail Samuel, will continue in that role until Smith officially arrives in early Fall.

The executive search was led by outside consultant Katherine Armstrong, Practice Leader, Global Arts & Culture, at Russell Reynolds Associates.

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