Bombshell: Deborah Borda returns as New York Philharmonic boss

Read the press statement below.

UPDATE: Inside story: Why Debora Borda is going back

UPDATE2: New York prefers a great manager to a great conductor


New York Philharmonic Board Chairman Oscar S. Schafer, on behalf of the Board of Directors and Music Director Designate Jaap van Zweden, today announced that Deborah Borda has been named President and Chief Executive Officer of the New York Philharmonic, to begin on September 15, 2017.

Bill Thomas, who currently serves as Senior Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of the New York Philharmonic, will become Executive Director, effective May 1, 2017. Ms. Borda succeeds Matthew VanBesien, who has held the Orchestra’s chief administrative post since 2012. She has served as president and CEO of the Los Angeles Philharmonic since 2000, having previously served in the same capacity at the New York Philharmonic during the 1990s.

Deborah Borda said: “This is a homecoming for me as a native New Yorker, but, more than that, it is a key transitional moment filled with opportunity to make a difference for one of the great musical organizations of the world — the New York Philharmonic. The major factors that have led me here are my immediate sense of partnership with Jaap van Zweden and our shared belief in forging new ways forward. The passionate commitment of the Board to the future, the remarkable quality of the Orchestra, and the ability to promote the superb and trusted administrator Bill Thomas to the position of Executive Director were all critical to my decision.

New York City and Lincoln Center stand at the crossroads of the artistic world and the opportunities for collaboration and partnerships within our vibrant community are thrilling. While embracing this challenging new work, I sincerely wish to express my deepest thanks and admiration for Gustavo Dudamel and the Los Angeles Philharmonic “family,” who have been courageous and loving partners over 17 years.”

“The search committee and I immediately knew that Deborah Borda was the best and only person to help lead the New York Philharmonic at this pivotal time as we head into an exciting future along with Jaap van Zweden,” said Oscar S. Schafer, Chairman of the New York Philharmonic. “She is recognized worldwide as a premier leader in the arts, and her proven track record of bold vision and innovative leadership fits hand in hand with this great city and this great Orchestra. We could not be more thrilled that she has chosen to return to the New York Philharmonic and to her New York home. Alongside Bill Thomas, whose expertise and experience has guided the Philharmonic over 15 years, we look forward to working together in partnership as we lay the groundwork for this Orchestra’s next 175 years. I’d like to thank the search committee, especially Jaap van Zweden, for its diligent work during this process, and I would like to again acknowledge and sincerely thank Matthew VanBesien for his leadership and many accomplishments during his tenure these past five years.”

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  • Smartest thing the NYPO has done in years. Bravo! If only the MET had hired her rather than Gelb, things would be much better for them as well. Brightest bulb in classical music management!

  • “What would it take to get you?” that’s what van Zweden asked Borda according to the New York Times.

    Hmm, what could NY possibly offer that she didn’t already have in LA?

    A newly consolidated title and position as President and CEO in NY that she already has in LA (VanBesien was Executive Director then President)?

    At least the same pay as in LA (twice what VanBesien was paid)?

    She gets to live with her partner (who works at the Met) in the same city?

    Van Zweden has a better smile than the Dude?

    I think it’s the challenge. If she could pull off NY, she’d go down in history as the most successful and powerful classical music executive in the US for a long long time to come.

  • van Zweden will rue the day he helped lure her to NY!

    Borda will not settle for second best on the podium (as VanBeisen did in hiring van Zweden instead of going all out for Salonen), and she’s already demonstrated she could be unsentimental about hiring and firing (as when she got rid of Masur who compared her to the Stazi).

    • What part of “Salonen has no interest in the NY Phil job and will never take another US music director position as long as he lives” do you not understand?

      • The part that makes you take such statements literally. And besides, I believe that his wording was somewhat different.

  • This elicits a big….whatever. Despite her carefully self-curated PR (i.e. taking credit for everything that ever happened in LA – ever), she came to LA with everything already in place: the hall was being built (fundraising already done), Salonen in top form, even Dudamel had been initially discovered by Ernest Fleischmann. Fleishmann’s huge fingerprints were on everything she inherited. Yes, she presided over the opening the hall, but all the heavy lifting had been done prior to her coming here – despite some “alternative facts” in her narrative. She landed on 3rd base and thought she’d hit a triple. She inherited a great band, with a great conductor, and a world-class hall just about to open. Has she kept it going? Yes. But it was all in place when she arrived. Ernest Fleischmann was the architect of everything that happened to the LA Phil.

    • That is an oversimplification based on a few minor inaccuracies. Yes, Ernest Fleischmann’s leadership was vitally important. But in the last 17 years, DB has done plenty of extremely positive things for the LA Phil organization as well. She built on what EF created, continued everything good that he started artistically, and improved financial health to a degree that he could not even dream of, which is hugely important because it allows the orchestra to be what it is now in terms of musical quality and creative programming.

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