DEBORAH BORDA’s outstanding career in music administration has been distinguished by her bold, creative leadership and implementation of innovative business model changes, revitalizing each institution she has led. A highly effective communicator, strategic planner, and consensus-builder, she is widely respected for her record of transforming major musical organizations through a combination of artistic vision and fiscal responsibility.
As President and Chief Executive Officer of the Los Angeles Philharmonic Association, Borda heads one of the largest music organizations in the United States. She is responsible for the artistic, administrative, and technical operations of the Philharmonic at Walt Disney Concert Hall and the Hollywood Bowl, as well as the presentation of close to 300 concerts annually at these iconic venues.
Deborah Borda assumed her present duties in January 2000, and immediately reinvigorated the plans to build Walt Disney Concert Hall. Forging a strong partnership with Music Director Esa-Pekka Salonen, the Board of Directors of the Los Angeles Philharmonic Association, and architect Frank Gehry, Borda developed and implemented a multi-year strategic plan that encompassed construction, gala opening events in October 2003, and expansion and reconceptualization of the entire scope of musical presentations of the institution.
Borda led the search for Esa-Pekka Salonen’s successor as Music Director, a position Salonen held for 17 years. The search culminated in April 2007, with the announcement of the young Venezuelan, Gustavo Dudamel, as the new Los Angeles Philharmonic Music Director effective October 2009.
At the local level, Borda has nearly tripled the number of concerts given annually, introducing a variety of innovative programming concepts. A wide range of offerings including world-class pop, jazz and world music concerts are now included in each season. Conceptual festivals combining music, art, dance and film, as well as interdisciplinary and multimedia performances, such as the adventurous Tristan Project, have become seasonal centerpieces. In 2009, luminary composer John Adams was appointed Creative Chair, reinforcing Borda’s and the LA Phil’s unwavering commitment to the composers of today. In 2009 Borda established a new music fund in honor of Esa-Pekka Salonen to support the commissioning and performance of new works. Recognizing the organization’s commitment to these principles, the LA Phil has been honored by the American League of Orchestras with the Morton Gould Award for Innovative Programming for the last two years in a row.
Borda has created groundbreaking educational programs and school partnerships, forging strong bonds with the greater Los Angeles community by making music more accessible to new generations of concertgoers. Successful initiatives with Dudamel include YOLA (Youth Orchestra Los Angeles), which provides access to instrumental and orchestral education in underserved communities throughout Los Angeles, inspired by El Sistema, the Venezuelan music education system that nurtured Gustavo Dudamel. The immediate success of YOLA’s first site, EXPO Center Youth Orchestra, led to the opening of a second site, YOLA at HOLA in 2010. To provide an opportunity for promising young conductors from around the globe to develop their craft and enrich their musical experience through personal mentorship, Borda launched the Dudamel Fellowship Program in 2009.
Borda has raised the orchestra’s profile by securing tours and residencies in North America, Europe and Asia, and increasing opportunities for audiences worldwide to experience the LA Phil’s adventurous repertoire. History was made in 2011 with the first-ever LA Phil LIVE presentation featuring a full concert performance broadcast live from the Walt Disney Concert Hall to audiences in over 450 movie theaters across the U.S. and Canada. Full performances of the LA Phil’s Opening Night Galas in 2009 and 2010 were broadcast internationally on PBS’ highly acclaimed series, Great Performances. Under Borda’s leadership, radio broadcasts by the Philharmonic have resumed, and the LA Phil is leading the way into the online age with a variety of new digital platforms including smart phone apps and games. Through a partnership with Deutsche Grammophon, audio recordings of concerts throughout the season are made available for download via iTunes. A live video recording of the LA Phil led by Gustavo Dudamel in the world premiere of John Adams’ City Noir and Mahler’s Symphony No. 1 marked the first-ever classical concert video to be released on iTunes. And, ¡Bienvenido Gustavo!, a day of free performances at the Hollywood Bowl on October 3, 2009, welcoming Dudamel to Los Angeles was webcast live.
Deborah Borda came to Los Angeles after nearly a decade as Executive Director of the New York Philharmonic, which she guided through a period of artistic growth and fiscal reform. Her appointment there in 1991 made her the first woman in recent history to manage a major American symphony orchestra. She led the planning for the orchestra’s 150th anniversary celebration, which provided an opportunity to launch a host of innovative new programs such as American Classics, the Rush Hour Concerts, the Millennium Project, Children’s Promenade, and numerous festivals. Under her leadership, the New York Philharmonic instituted live national radio broadcasts and was one of the pioneers in establishing its own successful record label. Also in New York, Borda set an industry precedent by negotiating a landmark six-year labor agreement with the orchestra. During Borda’s tenure, the renowned orchestra cured a structural deficit and returned to a stable financial basis.
Born in New York City, Borda began violin studies at the age of 6, and added the viola at 15. After completing her freshman year at the New England Conservatory of Music, she transferred to Bennington College in Vermont. Following graduate studies at the Royal College of Music in London, she enjoyed an active performing career.
A summer post at Vermont’s Marlboro Music Festival ignited Borda’s passion for arts management. Her first permanent position in the field came with her appointment as Director of Boston’s Handel and Haydn Society. She next joined the San Francisco Symphony, rising from Artistic Administrator to General Manager.
In 1986, Borda became President and Managing Director of the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra. Three years later, she was appointed Executive Director of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, where she solidified a reputation for effective leadership through creative resolution of financial crises, labor disputes, and affirmative action issues. While in Detroit, she also oversaw major renovations to Orchestra Hall and the orchestra’s return to that historic venue.
Deborah Borda is in demand internationally as a consultant and lecturer in both music and management, and is frequently called upon to judge music competitions. She has chaired the Music Panel of both the National Endowment for the Arts and the Major American Orchestra Managers Group. Borda has also been featured in numerous national publications and television news programs.