US orch engages a Chief Artistic Officer

US orch engages a Chief Artistic Officer


norman lebrecht

July 08, 2019

Ever seen that title before?

It’s the new curatorial role at the Atlanta Symphony, a kind of intellectual hub/artistic administrator.

Here’s what they say in the press release:

The Atlanta Symphony Orchestra (ASO) has named noted musicologist, author and artistic innovator Elena Dubinets to its newly created position of Chief Artistic Officer. Dubinets most recently held the position of Vice President of Artistic Planning and Creative Projects at the Seattle Symphony (SSO), where she has served since 2003. Dubinets will begin her new role with the ASO in August 2019.

As a musicologist, Dubinets has published four books and more than one hundred articles in Russian, American and British general and scholarly publications, has presented her work at numerous international scholarly meetings, and has received stipends and fellowships from the NEH and Paul Sacher Stiftung in Basel, Switzerland. Her fifth book, entitled “Zagranitsa: Russian Composers Abroad,” a look at historical and sociological aspects of professional musical culture during the “waves” of emigration from Russia and the former USSR from the end of the 19th century to present day, will be released in 2020 by the Indiana University Press. 



  • Doug says:

    Expertise in “musicology” is one thing; knowing how to tactfully deal with a music director who doesn’t like your ideas, suggestions for soloists, programs and who wants only his/her ideas and choices to prevail is another.

    • Frank Hudson says:

      Quite right. I was in exactly that position with two different regional orchestras. It would have been easier (and less wasteful of time) if those music directors had simply said: “I don’t like your ideas. Save your breath.” But I guess (I hope) they were just trying to be polite.

  • Larry says:

    The Colorado Symphony has had a staff member with the title “Chief Artistic Officer” for several years.

  • Has Been says:

    Mark Williams has this title in Cleveland, where, not coincidentally, Atlanta pres Jennifer Barlament used to work. Not shocking.

  • Olassus says:

    Such a role has long existed at “major” U.S. orchestras but it was one person working close to the music director. What has happened is that one person became three, then seven, as administrative ranks swelled, and across the organizations job-title inflation took hold. So now it looks ridiculous. The chief artistic officer is of course the music director, and artistry is the province of the musicians not the front office. I would bet that ticket prices are too high at both of this woman’s orchestras, Seattle and Atlanta, and that many seats go empty at their concerts.

  • fflambeau says:

    It make sense. She has a distinguished background and the Atlanta Symphony is rising.

  • Clive H. says:

    Following the still resonating glory days of the Seattle Symphony led by Simon Woods and Ludovic Morlot, with multiple American Grammy awards and the most recent Gramophone Orchestra of the Year award, evidently something or somebody is prompting an exodus, perhaps not yet complete, of the highly regarded senior leadership from the Seattle Symphony. CFO Maureen Melville left in the fall for San Diego. VP of Development Jane Hargraft went to the Cleveland Orchestra this spring. VP of Public Relations Rosalie Contreras thereafter to the Juiliard School. Now the widely respected Artistic VP Elena Dubinets goes to Atlanta. RSNO redux?

    • MacroV says:

      People move on to bigger jobs, and most of those moves sound like bigger jobs. She’s been in Seattle for 15 years, which is quite a long tenure in this business.

      It’s possible that with a new music director coming in, it’s a time for other people to make transitions, too. AFAIK the musicians, at least, are very happy to be getting Thomas Dausgaard.

      • Clive H. says:

        Indeed…Dausgaard’s discography, especially the offerings from Swedish Chamber demonstrate maturity and a broad range of styles. A coup in this era of so many arguably “talented” yet green conductors gaining major posts.

    • Thom says:

      Word is that Charlie Wade is also on his way out. 5 of 7 of the senior leadership have left in less than a year. Turnover is normal, but this seems extraordinary. Reminds me of our executive branch…

  • Tom says:

    Glorification of the Choosing One

  • HMV says:

    Atlanta SO is preparing for their post Spano era. Jennifer Barlament saw Spano off. Evans Mirageas for artistic adviser pops off back to his other 7 figure day job at Cincinnati Opera and bow they’re scrambling to find a new music director to pick up where Spano leaves the orchestra … in an amazing position compared to where he found it. JB known to be a number cruncher with little musical knowledge. God help the Atlanta Symphony !

    • Mike McGuire says:

      HMV. Jennifer has lots of knowledge about music. She has an undergrad and graduate degree in clarinet performance and plenty of management experience as well! I happen to know her personally.

  • M2N2K says:

    This titular diarrhea is getting ridiculous. Pretty soon every US orchestra will have “associate vice-presidents for toilet paper acquisitions”. Which, because of the aforementioned malady, they will definitely need.

  • Musician says:

    Maybe she’ll bring John Luther Adams to Atlanta.

  • Mark Gresham says:

    Here’s what I had to report about the appointment of Elena Dubinets to the Atlanta Symphony post: