This fall, the New York Philharmonic will have a transformed home, when David Geffen Hall reopens after a $550 million renovation. In the not so distant future, the orchestra will also have a new musical director to replace its outgoing conductor.
On Friday, the orchestra announced another change: Gary Ginstling, the executive director of the Washington National Symphony Orchestra, will replace Deborah Borda, a revered and dynamic figure in the Philharmonic Orchestra, as president and Executive Director.
The appointment marks the start of a new era for the Philharmonic, America’s oldest symphony orchestra, as it strives to attract new audiences as it recovers from the turmoil of the coronavirus pandemic. While the orchestra appears to have weathered the worst of the crisis, the pandemic has reignited questions about changing audience habits and expanding into the digital sphere.
Ginstling, who will join the Philharmonic Orchestra this fall as executive director before taking over from Borda next year, said he wanted to capture the momentum of the Geffen Hall renovation.
“It’s a singular moment in time when the orchestra is coming out of a really tough time,” he said in an interview. “This new home is going to be truly transformative for musicians, for audiences, for orchestras everywhere and for the city. There is a chance for the Philharmonie to make the most of this moment and set itself up for long-term success.
This appointment marks a generational change at the Philharmonie. Ginstling, 56, will take the reins from Borda, 72, who conducted the Philharmonic Orchestra in the 1990s and returned in 2017 to lead the long-delayed renovation of Geffen Hall. The return of Borda, one of the country’s most successful arts administrators, who in the meantime helped transform the Los Angeles Philharmonic into one of the country’s finest ensembles – moving it to a new home, by stabilizing its fragile finances and appointing Gustavo Dudamel as its music director – was considered a coup for the orchestra, which at the time was struggling with deficits and fundraising problems.
Borda said that with the hall reopening and the orchestra on a stronger financial footing after the long pandemic shutdown, she felt it was time to step down. She will step down on June 30, 2023, but will remain as an advisor to Ginstling and the Philharmonic Orchestra’s board, helping with fundraising and other matters.
“Those of us of my generation, we have done our best, but it is time to really support and introduce a new generation of leaders who will bring new ideas to everything,” she said in a statement. interview. “It was the right time.”
Borda began working with the board last year to find a successor. They were looking for a leader who could help guide the institution in a time of momentous transitions. After interviewing five candidates, the Philharmonic in May offered the job to Ginstling, who has conducted orchestras in Cleveland, Indianapolis and Washington DC.
“We wanted someone who had the experience, but was also young enough to have a long track,” Philharmonic Orchestra board co-chair Peter W. May said in an interview. “He also impressed us with the way he did outreach in the community.”
After joining the National Symphony Orchestra in 2017, Ginstling experimented with new ways to reach audiences, including hosting concerts in a 6,000-seat arena designed for rock music. He has been credited with helping to increase ticket sales, subscriptions and donations. He has worked closely with Gianandrea Noseda, the Music Director of the National Symphony Orchestra, whose contract was recently extended until the end of the 2026-2027 season.
In New York, Ginstling will face familiar challenges. Even before the pandemic, managing orchestras was difficult. Labor costs have increased. Ticket sales declined as the old season ticket sales model disappeared. Strong fundraising has become essential as donations make up an increasingly large portion of orchestra budgets.
The pandemic has put a strain on the Philharmonic Orchestra, which was forced to cancel its 2020-21 season, lay off staff and cut the salaries of its musicians by 25%. (The Philharmonic announced this week that it would be rescinding those cuts soon.)
For all its devastation, the pandemic has also brought an opportunity, allowing the orchestra to accelerate the renovation schedule by a year and a half (the hall is now set to open on October 7). Over the past year, the orchestra has found itself without a permanent home, wandering to several different theaters, many of which are smaller than Geffen.
Ginstling, a clarinetist with degrees from Yale, Juilliard and the Anderson School of Management at the University of California, Los Angeles, said he will continue the Philharmonic’s efforts to feature a diverse roster of composers and conductors. of orchestra.
“If we’re in a post-Covid world, and I don’t know if we still are,” he said, “the biggest challenges are rebuilding audiences and then finding ways to connect with our communities and in new and different ways”.
The Philharmonie has just begun its search for a conductor to replace Jaap van Zweden, its maestro since 2018, who unexpectedly announced in September that he would retire at the end of the 2023-24 season. Conductors like Dudamel, Susanna Mälkki and Santtu-Matias Rouvali, among others, have been mentioned as possible suitors, although the field remains open.
It is not known if the search will be completed before the end of Borda’s term. She said she was moving “full steam” and would continue to offer advice if needed.
In a statement, van Zweden, who said last year he would leave the orchestra because the pandemic had caused him to rethink his life and priorities, praised Borda’s management of the orchestra.
“The future and safety of this orchestra is very important to me, and I am grateful to Deborah for conducting with me from a position of strength,” he said. “I really look forward to welcoming Gary and working with him.”
The appointment is something of a homecoming for Ginstling, who grew up in New Jersey, the son of a Juilliard-trained pianist and a tax attorney. His parents subscribed to Philharmonic concerts and he attended concerts featuring giants like Leonard Bernstein and Zubin Mehta. He started the clarinet in primary school and later studied with a philharmonic player.
“I’ve had a deep love and passion for orchestras and orchestral music for a long time,” he said, “and it really started with the New York Philharmonic.”
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