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This Time, the Los Angeles Philharmonic Promotes From Within


Moving swiftly to try to correct a rare managerial misstep, the Los Angeles Philharmonic announced on Tuesday that Chad Smith, the orchestra’s respected chief operating officer, would become its new chief executive officer effective immediately. He is taking over from Simon Woods, who abruptly stepped down two weeks ago after spending less than two years on the job.

The behind-the-scenes tumult was remarkable in an orchestra that many consider to be the most artistically daring and financially secure in the nation. And it comes as the ensemble’s future with its star conductor, Gustavo Dudamel, is unclear: His contract as the music and artistic director lasts through the 2021-22 season.

The Los Angeles Philharmonic has faced the challenge of building upon its successes since its respected former leader, Deborah Borda, left in 2017 to run the New York Philharmonic. Mr. Smith, whose work overseeing the orchestra’s daring programming has won praise throughout the classical music world, was widely seen as a leading contender when she left.

But he claimed at the time to have no ambitions to lead the orchestra, and the board went with an outsider: Mr. Woods, who had developed a reputation for innovation during his run as president of the Seattle Symphony. The staff he inherited included at least two people who had been discussed as contenders for his job. When he departed, he said in a statement that “after a great deal of reflection, I have concluded that my hopes and aspirations lie elsewhere.”

In a sign of how awkward the upheaval has been, and how quickly the change of leadership was put into place, Mr. Smith declined to be interviewed, which is rare for the incoming chief executive of a major orchestra. Sophie Jefferies, the orchestra’s director of public relations, said in an email that Mr. Smith was “not giving interviews at this juncture” and that he “would like time to set his vision for the organization and will talk later.”

It was not immediately clear what the appointment would mean for the Ojai Music Festival, about 90 minutes north of Los Angeles, where Mr. Smith recently began his tenure as artistic director. (His first edition of the festival is planned for June 2020.) Asked if running Ojai so near the Los Angeles Philharmonic and its summer home, the Hollywood Bowl, was seen as a conflict or complication, officials at the orchestra and the festival said that there would be no change at the festival.

After Mr. Woods stepped down, several prominent critics expressed support for Mr. Smith. In The Los Angeles Times Mark Swed described him as the “obvious” candidate. And several composers praised his appointment on social media.

Mr. Smith began his career in 2000 at the New World Symphony and joined the Los Angeles Philharmonic in 2002, when he was responsible for planning its new music series, Green Umbrella, and classical music programming at the Hollywood Bowl. After briefly leaving to become an artistic planner with the New York Philharmonic, he returned to Los Angeles in 2006 as vice president of artistic planning and became chief operating officer in 2015.


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