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Deborah Borda, Executive Advisor to the President and Board of Directors

Biography

Deborah Borda has extended the artistic, commercial, and technological boundaries of what an orchestra can be in the 21st century through creative leadership, commitment to innovation, and progressive vision. As the Linda and Mitch Hart President and CEO of the New York Philharmonic, she revitalized the institution, working with NY Phil and Lincoln Center leadership to transform David Geffen Hall, deepening connections with the community, and engaging Gustavo Dudamel as the Orchestra’s next Music and Artistic Director. In June 2023 the NY Phil named her an Honorary Member of the Society — a rare distinction, given to the likes of Felix Mendelssohn, Franz Liszt, President Harry S. Truman, and Igor Stravinsky — for her “outstanding service to the organization and the world of music.” In July 2023 she becomes the first person to hold the role of Executive Advisor to the President and Board of Directors, in which capacity she will focus on fundraising and special projects.

Throughout her career Borda has advanced how symphony orchestras serve their communities through her leadership in top posts at ensembles including the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, and The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra. The accelerated completion of the David Geffen Hall project — a complete reimagination of how the venue serves the Orchestra and its community — follows others she has overseen, such as Walt Disney Hall in Los Angeles and Orchestra Hall in Detroit.

Borda held the chief executive position at the New York Philharmonic in the 1990s, when she was the first woman in recent history to manage a major American symphony orchestra. Her return to New York in 2017 marked a new chapter in the life of America’s oldest orchestra. She introduced programming that engages with today’s vital global conversations, ranging from immigration to women’s rights — the latter through Project 19, the single largest women-composers commissioning initiative in history, which has already garnered a Pulitzer Prize in Music. Connecting with New York City’s communities has become central, including through the launch of NY Phil Bandwagon, which brought free performances by Philharmonic musicians across New York City during the concert shut-down due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Under her leadership the Orchestra reopened the new David Geffen Hall with programming that brought life to both the versatile 2,200-seat Wu Tsai Theater and the flexible and dynamic Kenneth C. Griffin Sidewalk Studio, as well as initiatives to make the Orchestra more available to New York City. The Los Angeles Philharmonic’s success during Deborah Borda’s 17-year tenure was chosen for case studies by the Harvard Business School and Harvard Kennedy School. Her business, education, and curatorial plan was credited with restoring the orchestra to robust artistic and financial health. In addition to reinvigorating plans to build and open Walt Disney Concert Hall, she oversaw the addition of a new shell for the Hollywood Bowl, and reconceived and diversified programming. She spearheaded the appointment of music director Gustavo Dudamel, with whom she invested in groundbreaking educational initiatives. The two worked together to introduce YOLA (Youth Orchestra Los Angeles), a flagship program that provides free after-school instrumental instruction to children in underserved communities, and the national Take a Stand initiative, which promotes social change through music.

Borda was the first arts executive to join Harvard Kennedy School’s Center for Public Leadership as a Hauser Leader-in-Residence. She received an Honorary Doctor of Music degree from The Juilliard School in May 2023, having already been given that recognition from the Curtis Institute of Music, Manhattan School of Music, and New England Conservatory. Other recent accolades include the Gold Baton award — the League of American Orchestras’ highest honor, which recognizes individuals and institutions that champion and advance the cause of orchestras and symphonic music throughout the country — and election to the American Academy of Arts & Sciences. She is in demand internationally as a consultant and lecturer, and her accomplishments in the field of orchestral music have been cited in numerous reviews and articles, both nationally and internationally. Organizations that have tapped her for her vision include the Avery Fisher Artist Program, which she serves as Chair; the Gustav Mahler Conducting Competition; and Oxford University’s Humanities Cultural Programme Advisory Council. A former professional violist, Deborah Borda graduated from Bennington College and continued her studies at London’s Royal College of Music.

Upcoming 2023-2024 Performances

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