Latest Posts

Boston Symphony Picks Chad Smith of L.A. Philharmonic as New Leader

Chad Smith, a veteran arts leader who has helped turn the Los Angeles Philharmonic into one of the most innovative orchestras in the United States, will leave his post this fall to become president and chief executive of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, both ensembles announced on Monday.

Smith, 51, who has been the Los Angeles Philharmonic’s chief executive since 2019, said in an interview that the pandemic had made him rethink his priorities.

“I really have thought a lot about my journey here, and I’m ready for a change,” he said. “Change is also healthy for everyone.”

Smith’s departure is a significant loss for the Los Angeles Philharmonic, which is still reeling from the announcement in February that its superstar maestro, Gustavo Dudamel, would leave in 2026 to become the next music director of the New York Philharmonic.

Smith said that his move was unrelated to that of Dudamel, with whom he has worked closely in promoting contemporary music and expanding the orchestra’s youth education programs. He said that he felt it was the right moment now that the worst of the pandemic appears to be over and audiences are once again returning to concert halls.

“My decision was my own, and I know that Gustavo’s decision was his own,” he said. “It will provide the opportunity for the organization in L.A. to have a new artistic and executive leadership team to really move into the future.”

Smith will take the helm of the Boston Symphony at a time of tumult and division.

The orchestra has in recent years built a reputation for artistic and financial success, winning Grammy Awards and amassing an endowment of $484 million. But after the retirement in 2021 of the orchestra’s longtime leader, Mark Volpe, the organization entered a chaotic period.

A long list of senior leaders and staff have departed, including Volpe’s successor, Gail Samuel, the orchestra’s first female president and chief executive, who abruptly resigned in December, just 18 months into her tenure. (Samuel also came from the Los Angeles Philharmonic.)

The turmoil has alarmed the Boston Symphony’s musicians, staff, board and patrons. The orchestra’s leaders, including the board chair, Barbara W. Hostetter, a philanthropist, have declined to speak publicly about the problems. In a statement on Monday, she praised Smith’s appointment, saying that it would “usher in a new era of many exciting opportunities.”

Smith said he was not intimidated by the troubles in Boston, adding, “The B.S.O. is going through things that all organizations go through at certain times.” He said he would work to bring stability to the orchestra and to help it rethink its identity and mission.

“There are a lot of questions you have to ask,” he said. “Who do we want to be? What are those things that are absolutely essential? And where can we can continue to grow and expand and think differently about who we are and how we connect with audiences in our communities?”

Smith said that he would work to bring more racial, ethnic and gender diversity to the orchestra, which is less diverse than some of its peers. And he said that he was eager to keep Andris Nelsons, the music director in Boston since 2014, whose contract expires in 2025, calling him an “extraordinary musician.”

The challenges in Boston are familiar to Smith, who has spent 21 years at the Los Angeles Philharmonic, previously serving as its chief operating officer and vice president of artistic planning, developing a reputation for innovative programming and for forging ties to contemporary composers. He became chief executive in 2019 after the abrupt resignation of Simon Woods, who had been in the job for less than two years.

Like the Boston Symphony, the Philharmonic has been known for its artistic and financial success. Both institutions have benefited from having robust, and highly lucrative, outdoor summer offerings: the Hollywood Bowl in California, and Tanglewood in Massachusetts.

The loss of Smith will create a void in Los Angeles, where the orchestra is in the beginning stages of a search for a successor to Dudamel. Thomas L. Beckmen, the chair of the orchestra’s board, said in a statement that the Philharmonic was “confident our next leader will carry forward our values and vision and inspire the L.A. Phil to even greater heights.”

Dudamel expressed his gratitude to Smith in a statement, noting that the “only constant in life is change” and pledging in his remaining years to “give everything I can to the L.A. Phil and our wonderful audiences.”

Smith’s move to Boston will be a homecoming of sorts. He studied European history at Tufts University and has a bachelor’s and master’s degree in vocal performance from the New England Conservatory, and often attended Boston Symphony concerts while Seiji Ozawa was music director.

He recalled a memorial concert for the composer Aaron Copland. “I still get chills thinking about that,” Smith said. “It’s something I come back to very often about why I love the orchestral world and the orchestral music.”

Latest Posts

Don't Miss

Stay in touch

To be updated with all the latest news, offers and special announcements.