Deborah Borda: ‘You gotta play the long game’

Fascinating profile of the Los Angeles Philharmonic president in her city blatt. Doesn’t delve much below the epidermis – her Dutch predecessor left ‘undisclosed issues between him and the board’ (oh, yeah?)  – but the reporter does well to convey the optimistic charge that this orch chief infuses into her organisation and its far-flung relationships.

More than most in her isolated and often harassed position, she thinks constantly beyond the medium term.

Sample quote: An orchestra has to have “the patience and courage to play the long game,” said Borda. “I don’t think anything we’ve done is revolutionary, but it has been seriously evolutionary…. What we’re moving toward, in essence, are micro-audiences.”

Read here.

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  • The first issue that should be addressed is the outrageous and obscene salary packages that these orchestra managers receive in the United States. They are NON-PROFIT organisations and yet they all behave as if they were Wall Street hedge fund managers or bankers, demanding pay packages upwards of 1.5 million dollars per year for managing a non-profit organisation, that depends on the generous donations from the public and businesses in their communities. How this is seen as acceptable behaviour is a big question. Why is it possible to run orchestras in the Netherlands, in the UK and elsewhere in the world, at the highest levels, with a better musical result than the rather average LA Philharmonic and pay their managers correctly, but not like hedge fund managers or CEOs in the private sector. I think that American greed allows this to happen. Nowhere else could an executive, who chooses to work for an NPO be able to command the remuneration as Deborah Borda and her colleagues at other U.S. orchestras do. The extra money that they are getting could and should be used for educational projects, tickets for students, those on low incomes, etc. If the U.S. really wanted the arts to be democratic and accessible to all, they certainly wouldn’t allow this obscenity to go on. The fact that the boards over there, their audiences and others continue coughing up large sums of money to fund the orchestras and pay their managers multi millions shows no sense of reason nor understanding of what working for a non-profit really means and what sacrifices it requires on behalf of all those choosing to work there. The Americans again put their insatiable greed before reason or ideals and try to spin it as if it was normal. It isn’t!

    • “But for the vast majority of American arts institutions, government funding rarely exceeds 10 percent of our budgets. Cuts are painful but rarely catastrophic. In Europe, however, it was common for 50 percent or more of an organization’s budget to be covered by state funding. A 20 percent cut might mean a vast downsizing of the organization.” So, you are comparing apples and oranges. The truth is that The LaPhil is playing their game and winning (220 million dollar endowment). The Concertgebouw is playing their game and threatened with extinction.

      Another thought, In Europe they use tax dollars. In the US, donations. At least the donators in the US choose where their money goes. Whats wrong with that other than that it creates envious people?

    • “The extra money that they are getting could and should be used for educational projects, tickets for students, those on low incomes, etc.”

      Thank you. Couldn’t agree more, which is why my donations go to the Colburn School, and no longer to the LA Phil.

  • Kurt Masur was right the first time! She and the flamboyantly superficial Dudamel represent everything that’s wrong with the “business” side of classical music (along with critics who feel the need to pander to them).

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