Deborah Borda’s career has been distinguished by her creative leadership, commitment to innovation, and progressive outlook on the role of orchestras in the 21st century. As President and CEO of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, she manages the largest symphonic organization in the United States. Her tenure at the LA Phil has been marked by a series of artistic and educational initiatives that have garnered worldwide acclaim and become models within the orchestral music industry.
Borda assumed her present duties in 2000, at which time she reinvigorated plans to build Walt Disney Concert Hall and expand the scope of the organization’s presentations there. She oversaw the addition of a new shell for the Hollywood Bowl, the orchestra’s summer home, and broadened the venue’s offerings. In 2009, she gained the classical music world’s attention by spearheading the appointment of Gustavo Dudamel as Los Angeles Philharmonic Music Director. Each of these accomplishments is tied to the highly-regarded business, education and curatorial plan which Borda developed upon her arrival in Los Angeles and which has been credited with restoring the orchestra to robust artistic and financial health.
Borda works with a remarkable team of creative partners to shape the orchestra’s artistic trajectory. Composer John Adams was appointed as the orchestra’s first Creative Chair by Dudamel in 2009, through the 2015/16 season, and Herbie Hancock serves as Creative Chair for Jazz through the 2016/17 season. Esa-Pekka Salonen is the orchestra’s Conductor Laureate, a position created following his 17-year tenure as Music Director. In 2008, a fund in Salonen’s name was established to support the LA Phil’s commissioning program, the most active in the country.
The LA Phil’s creative team, led by Dudamel and Borda, is deeply invested in collaboration across disciplines, genres, and continents. Over the past decade, the orchestra’s multidisciplinary productions and far-reaching festivals have garnered international acclaim. The historic Mahler Project and recently-concluded Mozart/Da Ponte Trilogy offer two highly-regarded and influential examples of these efforts. Over a five-week period in 2012, Dudamel conducted nine Mahler symphonies with the LA Phil and the Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra of Venezuela in both Los Angeles and Caracas. The orchestras would unite again in 2014 for TchaikovskyFest, a similar multi-week exploration of a single composer’s work that also incorporated a substantial educational component, and they came together again in 2015 for Immortal Beethoven. Also launched in 2012, the Mozart/Da Ponte Trilogy was an ambitious, three-year undertaking, incorporating sets by Pritzker Prize-winning architects Frank Gehry, Jean Nouvel, and Zaha Hadid into stagings of Don Giovanni, The Marriage of Figaro, and Così fan tutte.
Under Borda’s leadership, the LA Phil continues its tradition of multidisciplinary collaborations and technological advancement through a combination of concert presentations and audience engagement initiatives. The in/SIGHT series incorporates the work of cutting-edge video artists, and Inside the Music provides audiences with new entry points into symphonic music through online video and discussion. These series build on Borda’s long history of exploring new media strategies to advance the field of classical music. She oversaw the creation of the LA Phil’s first Digital Initiatives team and instigated the development of the organization’s award-winning smart-phone apps, mobile games, online music discovery tools, and live HD theatercasts. These initiatives garnered international attention in 2015 with the introduction of the VAN Beethoven mobile experience and Orchestra VR app, which utilize Oculus virtual reality headset technology to transport users into a 360˚ 3-D performance of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony.
Deeply committed to the orchestra’s social as well as artistic imperative, Borda, in partnership with Dudamel, has invested in a host of groundbreaking educational initiatives. These include YOLA (Youth Orchestra Los Angeles), which provides free, after-school instrumental instruction to children in underserved communities throughout Los Angeles, and the Dudamel Conducting Fellowships, which connect young conductors from around the world with the LA Phil to develop their craft and enrich their musical experience through Dudamel’s mentorship. The creation of YOLA was inspired by Dudamel's association with El Sistema, Venezuela’s influential music education program. YOLA’s own influence has grown exponentially since the program’s founding, resulting in the creation of the national Take a Stand initiative in 2012. Through Take a Stand, the LA Phil, in collaboration with the Longy School of Music of Bard College, promotes the El Sistema philosophy of social change through music via conferences, regional workshops, and a Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT) program.
Prior to becoming President and CEO of the Los Angeles Philharmonic in 2000, Borda was Executive Director of the New York Philharmonic for a decade, and before that General Manager of the San Francisco Symphony, and President of the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra and of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra.
In 2014 a gift from David C. Bohnett, former Board Chair of the Los Angeles Philharmonic Association and current Board and Executive Committee member, provided the naming of the David C. Bohnett Presidential Chair, which endows the position of President and Chief Executive Officer in perpetuity. This gift was made in honor of Deborah Borda’s continuing accomplishments with the Los Angeles Philharmonic.
A Bennington/Royal College of Music alumnus and a former professional violist, Borda is in demand internationally as a consultant and lecturer. In 2015 she became the first arts executive to join the Harvard Kennedy School’s Center for Public Leadership as a Hauser Leader-in-Residence.