Shakeup at the top of the New York Phil

Shakeup at the top of the New York Phil


norman lebrecht

December 18, 2020

Debrah Borda is taking charge of fundraising and Lincoln Center’s reopening.

That gives two male VPs a real taste of power. Here’s the press release:

Deborah Borda, President and CEO of the New York Philharmonic, today announced a reorganization of the Philharmonic’s leadership, effective January 1, 2021. Ms. Borda will focus on the immediately critical issues of fundraising for the Philharmonic and the reopening of David Geffen Hall. Reporting to Ms. Borda will be Adam Cox, currently the Philharmonic’s Chief Operating Officer, who becomes Executive Director, and Isaac Thompson, currently Vice President of Artistic Planning, who becomes Managing Director.

Adam Cox, as Executive Director, will manage the business functions of the New York Philharmonic. As Managing Director, Isaac Thompson will manage artistic, concert, and production elements of the organization. Bill Thomas, Executive Project Manager, continues to oversee the David Geffen Hall project for the New York Philharmonic.

Deborah Borda said: “This has been a year we will never forget. As I look ahead, it is clear that the next 24 months will be one of the most important and consequential times in the Philharmonic’s history. This restructuring will allow me to fully focus my time and energy on two major components of the Philharmonic’s long-term success: fundraising and the planning surrounding the launch of the renovated David Geffen Hall. Entrusting the daily operations to Adam Cox and Isaac Thompson, two proven talents within our organization, allows for a seamless transition in post-pandemic planning. The Board and I have full trust and confidence in our leadership team, and I look forward to partnering with them moving forward.”



  • sam says:

    Borda has been in NY for 3 years and little to show for in terms of fundraising (especially considering the staggering personal wealth on the island of Manhattan rivals that of nations).

    So it’s encouraging that she recognizes she needs to work harder at it and schlep off the admin stuff to underlings, but it’s also far from certain she’s the person to succeed at it.

    The excuse that the pandemic made it impossible to fundraise is bullshit, because the stock market hit new heights during the pandemic, and the 0.1% got even wealthier during the Covid economy (think Bezos and Amazon).

    There is money. But you need the right personality to get it from the tech company class.

    Borda is several generations beyond the generation of today’s billionaires.

    What do they have in common? Not classical music.

    • anon says:

      It’s hard to raise money for an orchestra, because at the end of the day, you’re really just asking for a handout for 100 privileged white (and Asian) middle class New Yorkers who earn upwards of $600,000+ as principals, starting at $160,000+, who enjoy life tenure job protection, good family healthcare plans, and generous retirement, who speak of themselves in Messianic terms (see Ann-Sophie Mutter’s comparison of arts to religion, or Muti’s invocation of music for the soul, etc, etc), and who are ultimately ungrateful (we are the best, we deserve to be paid the most, you ought to give us more money).

      • Herr Doktor says:

        Anon, I’m really glad I don’t live in your head. Your world is a very dark one I’m afraid that seems to miss out on the possibilities of life that many of us sure seem to experience.

        • Couperin says:

          He’s not wrong though.. NY Phil musicians are some of the more self-important orchestral musicians on the globe. Mega-attitudes there, and arguably not the best American orchestra.
          And NO, I don’t count any California orchestra among the best either, no matter what some critics try to convince us of.

          • NYMike says:

            I know a number of NY Phil musicians personally. None that I know are “self-important with mega-attitudes.” Those that I know are consummate musicians who worked hard along with their talent to get where they are.

          • Tom Phillips says:

            Far from merely “arguable”. Chicago, Cleveland and even Philadelphia and Boston are all much better (in the case of the first 2, VASTLY so) orchestras than the NY Phil. The first two for at least the past 5 -6 decades.

      • BruceB says:

        So it’s “upwards of $600,000+” now, is it? Let us know when it reaches a million.

        • anon says:

          From the Philharmonic’s 990 filings with IRS for tax years 2016-2019 of highest total compensation of musicians at the Philharmonic:

          Concertmaster: $687,955
          Principal Cello: $565,578
          Principal Associate concertmaster: $521,321

          Then there is the impoverished rogue’s gallery:
          Principal Horn: $465,559
          (yes, the one who mysteriously disappeared from the NY Phil website)

          Principal Oboe: $459,458
          (yes, that other one, who not so mysteriously re-appeared after he won his arbitration)

          I’ll let you know when it reaches a million.

          • Aaron says:

            The principal horn that “mysteriously disappeared” was Philip Myers. He retired in 2017 after playing in the orchestra since 1980.

          • BruceB says:

            Sorry, I was misled by your use of the plural and your term “principal.”

            Keep us posted.

          • Sue Sonata Form says:

            Sounds like they deserve every cent of this – if they can get it, particularly at the moment.

            I’m intrigued about how somebody’s salary can be available for public consumption.

          • Tiredofitall says:

            These are 501(c)3 nonprofit organzations in the US and the law requires (nontaxable) institutions to report the highest salaries. It is for public transparency and accountability to avoid abuse. Misuse of their tax status can result in it being revoked. Rules of the game.

      • Eden says:

        If that’s your view of the role of music in human needs and essential values, why do you read this website? I agree with Mutter and Muti. The world is a moribund desert without music and those who have the skills and commitment to manifest it for people.

        • John Borstlap says:

          Yes, but why are so many performers – including the famous ones – so keen on big fees and ego trip indulgences, sporting their obvious vanity on the expense of the music? It has nothing to do with enriching the world but with exploiting the art form.

          Well, we know of Norman’s books on the subject. Enough said.

      • Donor Diversity says:

        It’s time to target blacks, hispanics, women, muslims, Jews and other more diverse resources for funding.

        White people have been bothered enough when it comes to being hit up for charities, etc. Let the new era of diversity take over and give whites a well deserved rest!

        • John Borstlap says:

          Yes, I have got quite tired lately. Let them take over for a while.

          • Notwaganaar says:

            Not too tired to agree with racist sarcasm and toss in a veiled brag about being a funding source. I guess you have to get your music played somehow.

        • Tom Phillips says:

          Your childish and unfunny attempt at “satire” is undermined by the obvious point that Jews in particular are among the most represented groups funding the performing arts in the U.S. Way beyond their percentage of the population; in New York and other places, they have largely displaced “WASP’s” in this area.

          • Fred says:


            Your claim is not believable Tom.

            The Met is an excellent example. Gelb abandoned singers, chorus, orchestra, etc back in March then held (by your own standards) an unnecessary Emergency Gala in April that NOBODY benefitted from and no one knows how many millions were raked in.

            With no facts, no data and no financial transparency you are LYING about both the support and the groups who give.

            Besides whites (of which Jews are included of course), how much are our blacks and Hispanics donating for example? How many millions just during the pandemic???

            How are the singers coping Tom?

          • Tiredofitall says:

            There would be no musical life in New York City had it not been for displaced Jews before and after WWII. Sadly, for the most part, that generation’s children do not have the same cultural awareness to continue their parent’s largesse. It may seem like a generalization, but the facts are there.

    • Tiredofitall says:

      Sam, do a little homework. All of this is available online.

      Deborah Borda returned to the NYP in September 2017. The total of gifts and grants the prior year (not under her watch) was $19,021,000. The following year, that number grew to $23,891,000. The year after that, $24,043,639. The audited statement for 2019-2020 are not yet published.

      Pretty impressive real numbers for fundraising. Your information is nonsense.

    • really? says:

      Wait, but is that actually right? Borda came to the NY Phil in 2017 and almost immediately raised $50 million the moment she arrived (I think it was part of a van Zweden initiative fund). Meanwhile, she’s been able to get the NY Phil musicians to agree to cuts similar to the kinds the MET has been unable to negotiate thus far, all while having David Geffen Hall undergo the kinds of renovations the organization has been trying to launch now for decades.

      • Makelincolncentergreatagain says:

        Build the hall and make the musicians pay for it.

      • Tiredofitall says:

        Look at the 990s for yourself. Regardless of the name of the specific campaign, it was under her watch. Posters quit bitching about someone who is obviously helping her organization weather this storm. Give credit where credit is due.

      • Tom Phillips says:

        Thanks for the info, although predictably it will fail to assuage the peanut gallery on this site, very few of whom would be capable of exerting one-tenth of her effort but are as always eminently capable of carping from afar.

  • CW says:

    Congrats gentlemen!!!

  • phf655 says:

    Many other types of institutions are considered non-profits – universities, hospitals, and museums – in the United States. They can be seen as even more elitist, with many of their employees paid much more than the musicians of the New York Philharmonic, or with missions that are similarly ‘ elitist’. That doesn’t mean that their activities are unworthy, they just don’t initially come to mind as charities (Which is more widely pursued, collecting art, or attending orchestral concerts?). Many of these institutions have enormous endowments – in the billions in the case of Harvard University and the Metropolitan Museum of Art – and they seem to do fine when it comes to raising money.

  • Tiredofitall says:

    Smart move. Ms. Borda is allocating resources, much like a military campaign. Along the way, NYP employees are getting paid, at least in part. This also shows that there are qualified deputies who may–at some point in the future–assume the leadership of the Phil. In her 70s, Ms. Borda will not want to stay forever. But she will leave behind a record of success.

    And to think, the Met Opera could have had Ms. Borda after Volpe. C’est la vie.

  • Sir David Geffen-Hall says:

    If they have not saved for the bumps that occur in life, then they can play in the Salvation Army band.

  • M2N2K says:

    Wow, such a major “shakeup”! According to the information in this post, not a single person is leaving and not a single new person is arriving. Practically a revolution!

  • Sheldon says:

    Deborah Borda is without a doubt America’s leading arts administrator. I congratulate her on putting the Phil’s operations in order, leaving it in capable hands, to focus on funding and long range planning. Good job to date and all the best for the future!

    • Tiredofitall says:

      Agreed. It’s called long-range planning and Ms. Borda is obviously lacks the ego think no one can do her job…I think she’s just a “get the job done” top of person. She can one day retire without regret.

  • Barry Guerrero says:

    Maybe she should befriend Mackenzie Scott. With one wave of the wand, they could be in good shape for a while.