As it prepares to kick off an important season — one that includes the return to Walt Disney Concert Hall and the opening of the Beckmen YOLA Center — the Los Angeles Philharmonic has a new, strikingly diverse leadership team in place.
The orchestra has created and filled three new upper-level management positions:
- Renae Williams Niles has joined the organization as chief content and engagement officer.
- Emanuel Maxwell has been hired as chief talent and equity officer.
- Summer Bjork, who has held a variety of positions with the Philharmonic over the past 16 years, has been promoted to a third new position, chief of staff.
In addition, Daniel Song has been promoted to the position of chief operating officer. The top management ranks, led by CEO Chad Smith, are rounded out by CFO Karen Sturges, who joined the orchestra in 2020; Chief Philanthropy Officer Margie Kim; and General Counsel Mona Patel.
Smith said the new hires and promotions “build on our core belief that new perspectives, new voices, and new works enhance every aspect of our organization.
“The challenges of the past 18 months have taught us that we must continuously seek new ways to serve our communities, by being even more flexible and adaptive, and relentless in our quest to push our art form forward.”
Williams Niles has a portfolio of Mahleresque proportions. It includes overseeing all programming across Walt Disney Concert Hall, the Hollywood Bowl, the Ford Theatre, and the new Beckman Center, home of Youth Orchestra Los Angeles. She is also responsible for the Philharmonic’s learning programs and initiatives, communications, marketing, sales, and the aforementioned YOLA.
A 25-year veteran of Los Angeles’ nonprofit sector, she has worked for the Music Center, the Los Angeles County Arts Commission, the Lulu Washington Dance Theatre, and the Culver City Education Foundation. She is board chair of the Association of Performing Arts Professionals.
In contrast, Maxwell is from a different world entirely. His most recent position was with Guckenheimer, which designs and implements food and beverage services for corporations and their workers. His new role involves less coffee, more Coffee Cantata.
Among other responsibilities, he was “chief COVID officer” for Guckenheimer. His role at the Philharmonic will focus on “strategic talent development” with the goal of furthering “diversity and inclusion across the organization,” according to a statement by the Philharmonic.
Bjork has played pivotal roles in several major LA Phil projects in recent years. As director of strategy and special projects, she guided the transfer when the organization took over management of the Ford Theatre. As centennial director, she led the planning and execution of the orchestra’s many special programs celebrating its 100th birthday in 2018–2019, including the eight-mile-long Celebrate LA! street festival.
In his new position, Song expands his previous portfolio, which includes overseeing management of the orchestra, concert production, and stage facilities, to add internal business operations and venue stewardship of the Hollywood Bowl.