Breaking: LA Phil has new boss

The orchestra has promoted Chad Smith, its chief operating officer, to replace its CEO Simon Woods, who left suddenly last week.

Smith had been one of two internal candidates who were passed over when Deborah Borda left in 2016.

The board thinks it’s got the right man now.

From the press release:

“The LA Phil has been my creative home for the last 17 years, and I am honored to be stepping into this role,” said Chad Smith. “Supporting the expansive vision of Gustavo and his deeply held commitment to serving the whole of the LA community has never been more important, and I continue to strive to support that work. As we focus on ensuring that our great orchestra thrives, as we continue to grow our YOLA program, and as we imagine new ways our programming can connect to existing audiences while inviting in new listeners, I could not be more excited about beginning my new role.”
Smith began his career in 2000 at the New World Symphony, working closely with conductor Michael Tilson Thomas. He first joined the LA Phil in 2002, when he was responsible for planning the orchestra’s Green Umbrella new music series, as well as the 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 Chief Operating Officer in 2015.

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  • “The board thinks it’s got the right man now.”
    Since many articles posted here seem to be about ‘keeping score’… hopefully the Board thinks it’s got the right ‘person’ now.

  • He’s got a tough job ahead of him. As great as the orchestra is and as interesting as its programming has generally become, the blunt fact is that Los Angeles pays little attention to classical music. Really, the only things that count in Los Angeles are the weekly movie grosses and television ratings, the dresses worn by women at the zillions of awards shows, and the flashy, expensive, gas-guzzling sports cars driven by people in the entertainment business. This was not always true; there were many European refugees living there, and, even though some of them did work in various aspects of the entertainment business, they did not give up their devotion to high culture (when I was in high school, I was invited by the violinist Henri Temianka, the father of one of my friends, to a chamber music recital given at the UCLA Chancellor’s residence, where I heard Schubert’s “Death and the Maiden,” among other works and met many of those emigres, including Marta Feuchtwanger, the widow of the writer Lion Feuchtwanger). Those days are gone for good. Few people in the entertainment industry bother with classical music, opera, serious theater, or art (a director of the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles nearly drove that museum into bankruptcy in a futile attempt to somehow appeal to the Hollywood crowd).

    • This is maybe the dumbest thing I’ve read in a while. Most cities including mine would kill for LA Phil’s attendance numbers, demographic reach, and patron money. That’s the result when an orchestra successfully connects with its city.

  • I heard from a friend of a friend (so make of it what you will) that part of his initial hesitation when the first search happened was that he didn’t want to be another white guy running a major, diverse city’s orchestra. But of course, they hired another one anyway, so I guess at this point Smith figures he might as well just do the job he is clearly so well cut out for.

  • Simon Woods was always an odd choice, coming from a second tier orchestra in a second tier city, when you’ve got a man right under your nose in LA. Was the board hoping he’d bring Sir Mix-A-Lot and Baby Got Back to the stages of LA? Hey, let’s bring the city together and collaborate with the Cribs.

    Anyway, I think Deborah Borda made it quite clear in her prior public statement that she’d approve the current choice.

  • He needs to step down from the Ojai Music Festival. Neither organization should accept Chad splitting his time between the two.

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