In a bombshell development that speaks volumes about the Los Angeles Philharmonic’s influence on the orchestral scene, the Phil’s chief executive officer, Chad Smith, 51, is headed for the Boston Symphony Orchestra, starting early this fall.
The BSO made the announcement of Smith’s appointment as president and chief executive officer Monday morning. He succeeds Gail Samuel, who herself was also poached by the BSO from the LA Phil’s management team. She left last December, after just 18 months on the job.
Though Smith’s term as LA Phil head honcho will turn out to be only four years in length — during which he guided the orchestra through the COVID pandemic — he in fact has been associated with the orchestra for over two decades (with the exception of a brief fling with the New York Philharmonic). He has been credited with spearheading the push for progressive programming at the LA Phil, planning the Green Umbrella new music series, championing the works of several composers (the late Louis Andriessen being a particular favorite), presiding over the development of the Youth Orchestra of Los Angeles (YOLA) and the Beckmen YOLA Center, among many other things.
In Boston, Smith will be managing a full menu of offerings — the BSO under the direction of Andris Nelsons, the Boston Pops Orchestra under the long-standing direction of Keith Lockhart, the Tanglewood Music Center (where he studied singing as a student over two summers) and festival, and the new Tanglewood Learning Institute.
“A visionary credited with advancing the orchestral music tradition through cutting-edge programming and cultivating industry-defining partnerships, Smith brings strategic expertise, commitment to musical excellence, and a tested ability to expand audiences and generate revenue,” the BSO stated in its announcement.
Smith’s appointment in Boston is but the latest aspect of a trend in which venerable East Coast institutions have been looking with what must be envy at the LA Phil’s success in attracting audiences and piles of revenue with innovative ideas in programming and presentations over the last two decades. Besides the BSO nabbing Smith and Samuel, there is also the example of the New York Philharmonic re-hiring its former chief Deborah Borda away from the LA Phil front office, who in turn went after and got the LA Phil’s celebrity music director, Gustavo Dudamel, when the NY Phil music director job was vacated. Despite L.A. being The Place, the prestige of an East Coast post still carries much of its old clout.
Meanwhile, in Los Angeles, the Phil released a statement by LA Philharmonic Association Board Chair Thomas L. Beckmen congratulating Smith on his new job, adding, “We are bringing our spirit of innovation, boldness, inclusivity, and service to the search for the next Chief Executive Officer of the Los Angeles Philharmonic Association. We are confident our next leader will carry forward our values and vision and inspire the LA Phil to even greater heights.”