Boston Symphony Orchestra Names Gail Samuel as President
February 19, 2021 — The Boston Symphony Orchestra, a leading nonprofit, Boston-based cultural institution, yesterday announced that it named Gail Samuel as president and chief executive officer, the first woman to hold the post in the organization’s 140-year history.
Samuel will assume her new role in June, the eighth person to lead the organization, succeeding Mark Volpe, who held the position for 23 years.
Barbara W. Hostetter, incoming board chair of the Boston Symphony Orchestra (BSO), said Samuel “is the rare leader [who has] a deep understanding of the orchestral art form.
“As an accomplished orchestra executive, she is well-versed in the particulars of strategic management, from marketing, audience development, revenue growth, and fundraising to meaningful community engagement.”
Samuel, with three decades of experience in orchestra management, currently serves as president of the Hollywood Bowl and chief operating officer of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, known as the LA Phil. She will join the BSO after 25 years of senior leadership at the LA Phil during which she oversaw, according to the BSO, record financial growth, thriving community partnerships, and a number of groundbreaking programs, and performance spaces widely considered the industry “gold standard.”
Samuel said, “The opportunity now to lead one of the world’s best orchestras, in a rapidly changing metropolitan area such as Boston, is an exciting new challenge and a dream project. The BSO’s assets are tremendous – from its phenomenal Orchestra, to the beloved Boston Pops, Symphony Hall and Tanglewood with the Tanglewood Music Center, and the new Tanglewood Learning Institute.
At the LA Phil, Samuel maintained the largest operating budget of any orchestra in the country.
She is credited for transforming and expanding the reach of the Hollywood Bowl, the iconic music venue that serves as the summer home for the LA Phil and which is a popular arts destination for the Southern California community.
She also steered all strategic and operational development for the organization’s highly celebrated venue, the iconic Walt Disney Concert Hall. In recent years, she worked with the County of Los Angeles to bring another historic outdoor amphitheater, the Ford, under the stewardship of the LA Phil, with the specific mission and vision to celebrate and support the broad and diverse community of artists in Los Angeles and their audiences.
Volpe, who stewarded a period of sustained artistic, programmatic, and financial growth at the BSO, lauded Samuel as “one of the country’s most accomplished leaders in the world of music,” adding, “I am certain she will inspire new ideas and thinking that will ensure the BSO continues to flourish by bringing its extraordinary gifts to the widest possible audiences for many years to come.”
Samuel studied violin and earned undergraduate degrees in music and psychology and a master’s degree of business administration from the University of Southern California (USC). She serves on the board of councilors for the USC Thornton School of Music and on the board of directors of A Noise Within Theatre.
The BSO, like virtually every nonprofit focused on art or culture, has been adversely affected by the coronavirus pandemic, which forced the orchestra to cancel its entire 2020-21 season. Despite the loss of live concerts, the BSO continued creating and disseminating newly recorded online content that will continue to be available through April. Last September, as the pandemic wore on, the BSO implemented lay-offs of 50 of 180 administrative staff positions, in addition to another 30 had been left unfilled since March when the pandemic hit Massachusetts.
In 2018, the BSO was ranked, according to the Boston Business Journal, as the eighth largest nonprofit in Massachusetts, based on assets, posting $609 million in assets.
For the year ending Aug. 31, 2019, the BSO reported $95.9 million in revenue, of which $37.4 million came from contributions and grants, and $109.8 million in expenses, according to its most recently available federal tax filing.
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