How the LA Philharmonic's New CEO Plans to Keep Music Alive

By Stacey Leasca | October 15, 2018 | Culture People

Let there be music! Simon Woods, the new CEO of the LA Phil, hopes to start things off on a high note.

simon-woods-2.jpgLos Angeles Philharmonic’s new guy in charge, Simon Woods.

Simon Woods knows he’s got a good thing going. As the newly minted chief executive officer of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, he is now in charge of one of the most important music programs in the world. And his plans for the organization include not changing a single thing. Instead, Woods hopes his legacy will be even more Angelenos coming in for a listen.

“The job of being CEO of the LA Phil is probably the most coveted job in the industry. It’s a glorious job,” the British-born Woods, 55, shares from his new corner office above Walt Disney Concert Hall. “You don’t come to a position like this without a lot of humility.”

Woods is a genuinely self-effacing man. He’s the first to tell you that he’s lucky to work in the presence of greatness, with the orchestra’s music director, Gustavo Dudamel, who was hired by Woods’ dynamic predecessor, Deborah Borda, who left last year to take on the New York Philharmonic as CEO. We wouldn’t blame Woods if he wanted to brag a bit, though. After all, he did help bring the Seattle Symphony into the limelight while he was CEO by helping to commission John Luther Adams’ orchestral composition “Become Ocean,” which won a Pulitzer in 2014 and a Grammy in 2015.

la-philharmonic.jpgThe celestial interior of Walt Disney Concert Hall.

As CEO, Woods has made his main mission to keep the Philharmonic’s popularity on the upward trajectory for many more years to come, through an open-door policy for the employees and the community at large.

“We are going to start thinking very seriously about what comes in the next decade,” Woods says of his major duties after the Philharmonic celebrates its centennial anniversary this year. “One of the big questions is, what is the audience of the future?”

That audience, Woods explains, must better reflect the populace of the city. And that will happen not only because the Philharmonic will put forth its most ambitious programming ever, but also because he’s inviting the entire staff to share their ideas, big or small, on how the LA Phil can build a more diverse fan base and how it can better reach out to every last corner of Los Angeles.

walt-disney-concert-hall.jpgThe Frank Gehry-famous exterior of Walt Disney Concert Hall gleams for the LA Philharmonic’s centennial.

“The one non-negotiable for me is collaboration,” Woods says. “I wouldn’t try anything that doesn’t feel like it is respectful of collaboration and equity, and community and inclusion. I don’t want to go back to the bad old days when classical music was a one-dimensional art form. I like where we are today in this very dynamic place.” Bravo.