Gustavo Dudamel
Gustavo Dudamel | Credit: Danny Clinch/LA Phil

An awful lot of employers have unfilled job openings at the moment. As of now, that roster includes the Los Angeles Philharmonic, which is looking to fill its most prestigious position: music director.

Gustavo Dudamel, the charismatic Venezuelan conductor who took over the position in 2009 and added the title of artistic director in 2015, will assume those same roles with the New York Philharmonic beginning in the fall of 2026. He was recruited by that orchestra’s chief executive, Deborah Borda, who previously brought him to Los Angeles when she was CEO of the LA Phil.

While not entirely unexpected — speculation about Dudamel moving to New York had been swirling for months — the news is nonetheless a jolt for the Southern California classical music scene. Dudamel’s star power has been a major factor in the LA Phil’s success in recent years.

Chad Smith
Chad Smith | Credit: Ryan Hunter

In a statement, LA Phil CEO Chad Smith congratulated Dudamel on the appointment.

We are excited to continue working with Gustavo through our 2025–2026 season, which will mark his 17th year with the LA Phil, and we will look forward to welcoming him back as a guest conductor for years to come,” he said. “We are deeply proud of what we have achieved, and will continue to, under his guidance.”

Regarding a potential successor, Smith noted that “from our earliest days, the LA Phil has been a trailblazer, boldly embracing the new.” The search for the next music director, he added, “will be conducted with this same spirit as we define the future of our organization.”

Choosing a female music director would be just such a bold move. Only one of the nation’s 25 largest orchestras is led by a woman (Nathalie Stutzmann at the Atlanta Symphony). Marin Alsop, former music director of the Baltimore Symphony, does not currently hold a music directorship.

Other women who could emerge as serious candidates include Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla, who was the orchestra’s assistant conductor for two seasons (2014–2016) and associate conductor for the 2016–2017 season, and Susanna Mälkki, who served as the Phil’s principal guest conductor from 2017 to 2022.

Among male conductors, one intriguing possibility is San Diego Symphony Music Director Rafael Payare. Like Dudamel, he is Venezuelan and a product of that nation’s famous El Sistema training program.

Mälkki and Payare are both scheduled to guest conduct the orchestra this spring.

Dudamel’s initial New York contract is for five seasons. According to The New York Times, Borda wooed him by presenting him with a pencil once used by Leonard Bernstein. Dudamel has conducted many Bernstein works during his stint in Los Angeles. He will now follow in his footsteps in New York.