Los Angeles Philharmonic’s Deborah Borda

James T. Murray

The philharmonic’s president and CEO talks with Departures.

Position: President and CEO, Los Angeles Philharmonic

Provenance: Formerly of the New York Philharmonic, Detroit Symphony, St. Paul Chamber Orchestra and San Francisco Symphony.

Under Her Watch: The L.A. Phil has moved into the futuristic, Frank Gehry–designed Walt Disney Concert Hall; hired Gustavo Dudamel, the most exciting young music director in America; shown its concerts live in movie theaters across the U.S. and Canada; and kept seats filled with genre-crossing material.

Forecasting Success: “We simply can’t run these types of institutions the way we did 15 or ten—or even five—years ago. In those days, one felt free to focus entirely on the artistic aesthetic and imperative. And while you can never take your eyes off that, I think, in some ways, it insulated people. We have to look at larger issues of how we fit into contemporary society and what the social rule is.”

Building a Home: “Frank Gehry said something to me that stuck in my mind: ‘Please make the hall a living room for the city.’ So we invited a larger audience that had not been [served] before.”

The Audience: “When people visit, one of the things they always remark on is how much younger and more varied our audience looks. We’ve run very specific marketing programs in the Latino community. There have even been all-night raves at Walt Disney Concert Hall and electronica performances. We have a casual concert series, when the orchestra wears street clothes, and we tell the audience, ‘Please come dressed that way.’ These kinds of things break down barriers and create access.”

A New Season for New Music: “We have nine major commissions for the new season; I don’t think there’s any other orchestra doing that. One of the most exciting is the world première of John Adams’s new oratorio, The Gospel According to the Other Mary.”

East Coast vs. West Coast: “A few people might still say, ‘How could it be serious culture if it’s in L.A.?’ But a few years ago a Sunday feature about us in The New York Times essentially said that the West Side has moved to the West Coast. People have started to realize that work for the future is being done here.”

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