Los Angeles Phil reveals $20 million gift from its ex-chair

And half of the money will go to endow the position of president and CEO, held by Deborah Borda since the turn of the century. Deborah and tech pioneer David Bohnett were a class act. Now, they have laid the foundations of a healthy future for the Philharmonic.



Cameron Official Dinner Arrival


Press release; Los Angeles (December 10, 2014) – Diane B. Paul, Chair of the Board of Directors of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, today announced that David C. Bohnett, Chairman of the David Bohnett Foundation, has pledged a $20 million gift to the Los Angeles Philharmonic. This gift will create the David C. Bohnett Presidential Fund for Discovery and Innovation and will also provide for the naming of the David C. Bohnett Presidential Chair, which endows the position of President and Chief Executive Officer in perpetuity (the position held by Deborah Borda since 2000).

This gift is made in honor of Deborah Borda’s continuing accomplishments with the Los Angeles Philharmonic. Bohnett is a former Board Chair of the Los Angeles Philharmonic Association and currently serves on the Board and the ExecutiveCommittee. One of the largest donations in the history of the LA Phil, this new gift will be divided into two equal parts: $10 million to endow the David C. Bohnett Presidential Chair, and $10 million to launch the David C. Bohnett Presidential Fund for Discovery and Innovation. While the naming of a chair is common practice in major academic institutions, the endowment of a CEO position is rare in artistic organizations.

The Fund for Discovery and Innovation will be distributed at the discretion of th President for programs that continue to shape the Los Angeles Philharmonic as an international model of an orchestra of the 21st century – through investments in new audience development and initiatives tha t enhance the institution’s mission of innovative programming and social responsibility to the community.

Deborah Borda stated, “David Bohnett has again demonstrated not only hisincredibl e generosity and commitment to the Philharmonic, but also his profound belief that musical institutions have an important role to play in civic life. He truly sees the arts and education as an essential human service. I am deeply grateful to David for his support and friendship over the years and now for this transformative gift. His visionary philanthropy will allow the LA Phil to continue to expand the programmatic boundaries of the American symphony orchestra as a pioneer of innovation and excellence. I am honored to occupy a position that bears his name.”

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  • Alas, wealth and culture or civic duty are not always aligned.

    LA and Hollywood are flushed with money, so it’s about time some of that weath made its way to some other form of culture other than the film and pop music culture that LA is known for.

    But too bad the $10 million endowment goes to the CEO and not the musicians, which makes it simply a transfer of wealth among the wealthy. Borda now can get paid $2 million instead of $1 million. Of course, as the highest paid orchestra musicians on earth, indeed in the entire history of the world, LA Phil musicians have little to complain about.

    But take a look north of LA to the Silicon Valley, home of start-up billionaires, and another engine of the American economy. Where’s the orchestra and opera house that is befitting the kind of wealth that could easily support such culture?

    • “Of course, as the highest paid orchestra musicians on earth, indeed in the entire history of the world, LA Phil musicians have little to complain about.”

      Maybe not so little.

      Remember that during contract negotiations, the LA Phil had to cut string players (and now hires freelancers per concert) in order to get that average salary. It hasn’t exactly been beneficial to their overall string sound. And Ms. Borda herself was instrumental in spearheading that particular concession from them.

      • Idea for Borda: Cut the string section by 50%, but up average salary by 25%. Use the savings to buy an amplification system.

        Win-Win-Win situation: win 1 = musicians can claim an ever higher salary, win 2 = every string player can now sound like two string players, win 3 = more money in the budget to compensate Borda.

      • Not a single string player was ever “cut” to accommodate the contract. The number of string positions was gradually reduced over several years time when people were retiring, by the grand total of two, which means roughly from 66 to 64.

  • The idea of naming orchestral and administrative positions, and buildings and even parts of buildings after rich people is anything but class. It is a manifestation of the tackiness created by America’s system of cultural plutocracy. In Europe, concert halls are named after important composers, or after the cities or regions whose culture it represents. The names signify that the arts belong to the people and represent the people. In America, halls are named after rich people who have almost no distinction other than wealth. The arts represent the wealthy and that ethos imbues virtually every aspect of the so-called high arts in the USA. Disney Hall, though at least named after someone well-known, is perhaps the ultimate manifestation of these ironies, a name that captures perfectly the Mickey Mouse nature and tackiness of rich folks using cultural institutions to create mausoleums for themselves.

    Arts organizations should be for the people, not cultural country clubs for the wealthy. It is thus no surprise that orchestra and opera ticket prices are on average 3 to 5 times more expensive than in Europe. It is no surprise that the wealthy receive all sorts of special privileges in our arts institutions and in a way that literally demeans the entire enterprise. And it is no surprise that the wealthy do not adequately provide for the arts. LA thus ranks 180th in the world for opera performances per year, even though it has the 3rd largest metro GDP in the world. And it’s no surprise that we have a few cultural institutions in a few financial centers where the wealthy are congregated, while the rest of the country remains cultural impoverished. The musicians in the LA Phil average about $150,000 per year while the average salary for a regional orchestra musician is only $13k per year – and even though they are often serving metro areas of a million or more people.

    What we are seeing is class, alright. An ugly, destructive, and tacky manifestation of classism and cultural plutocracy not found in any other developed country in the world. These people should be ashamed, except that their tackiness has put them completely beyond such basic social awareness.

  • The arts indeed belong to us all.

    It is amusing to scan the press release and note all the capitals, the middle initials, the “tion” words (there are 18), the dollar signs, the repetitions (“Bohnett” x 8).

    … investments in new audience development and initiatives that enhance the institution’s mission of innovative programming and social responsibility to the community. — Yuck!

    At least “business model” does not appear.

    NL really owes a disclaimer, btw … .

  • When someone donates a few million bucks to endow a chair in say, biology at a University, Its a positive thing because it frees up money in the budget to pay for somethings else. Likewise here, the 10 mil was donated to pay for Borda’s position frees up money in the budget to pay for, perhaps more youth or new music programs. While I understand the limitless capacity for people to twist a good act into something bad, I’m really impresses by what some of the commenters have done here.

    • Nonsense. Our neo-feudalistic method of funding keeps our system broken and and dysfunctional. A fact that is staring us in the face. Any other city in a developed country the size of LA would have several full time orchestras and at least a couple full time opera houses. London has 5 full time orchestra and two full time opera houses. Berlin has 8 orchestras and 3 houses. Munich 5 orchestras and two houses. Paris 5 orchestras and two houses. Etc. etc. etc.

      Meanwhile, LA has one deluxe orchestra for the wealthy and an opera house with a pathetic season of 40 performances while major houses have 300. Never mind, we’ll let the fat cats have their cultural country clubs while cultural access for the rest of society is largely neglected — as if the United States didn’t privilege the wealthy enough already. What a bunch of pompous, self-congratulatory phonies those administrators and donors are.

    • “…the 10 mil was donated to pay for Borda’s position frees up money in the budget to pay for, perhaps more youth or new music programs”

      I have a novel idea, how about donating 10 mil directly to youth and new music programs and cut Borda’s pay?

  • Oh what a tangled web we weave
    When first we practice to deceive comes to mind when reading on this latest gift giving.

  • A person donating 20 million of his money to a symphony orchestra should not be “ashamed”, but truly proud. And the number of $150,000 as LA Phil’s “average” yearly salary is very wrong. Even the orchestra’s minimum salary is higher than that, and since most players are compensated at a higher rate – some significantly higher – than the minimum, the average without a doubt is considerably higher too.

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