L.A. Chamber Orchestra hires its new executive director from the Vermont Symphony

Ben Cadwallader is the new executive director of LACO
Ben Cadwallader is the newly appointed executive director of the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra.
(Lily Mellor/Old Mill Road)

The Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra has hired as its new executive director Ben Cadwallader, who comes from the Vermont Symphony Orchestra, LACO said Tuesday.

Cadwallader, who succeeds Scott Harrison, is expected to begin in March.

Cadwallader has been executive director of Vermont Symphony since 2015. In 2016, he was one of nine arts administrators selected by the League of American Orchestras for its Emerging Leaders Program. An oboe player, he graduated from the Mannes College of Music at the New School in New York.

From 2012 to 2015, Cadwallader worked at the Los Angeles Philharmonic as the education programs manager. He led the composer fellowship program and worked with composers including Andrew Norman, Sarah Gibson and Christopher Rountree.


At LACO, he will support new Music Director Jaime Martín’s artistic vision, oversee strategic planning and operations, and collaborate with the board of directors on the ensemble’s financial growth.

Cadwallader said he was excited to return to Southern California, calling his new role “the honor of a lifetime.”

“I have admired this organization throughout my career,” he said. “To play a role, along with Jaime, the musicians, the staff, the board, the audience, in how that organization is going to evolve over the years to come ... I couldn’t be more excited.”

Cadwallader was selected after a six-month search. “Ben’s mixed experience, his energy and his true enthusiasm for the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra and Los Angeles overall really put him head and shoulders above the other candidates,” said LACO board Chairwoman Leslie Lassiter.

Cadwallader’s appointment comes after the sudden departure of former Executive Director Harrison, who was brought in to modernize LACO. Board Vice Chairwoman Ruth Eliel has been serving as interim executive director.

Harrison “accomplished a lot of things at LACO, and we miss him,” Lassiter said. “The decision was mutual. He was hired with a certain agenda, and he accomplished that. And I think, like many young executives, [he] wanted new challenges.”

Jaime Martin, music director of LACO
Jaime Martín made his first appearance as music director of Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra when the current season launched in September at Royce Hall.
(Michelle Shiers/Michelle Shiers Photography)

Cadwallader said he won’t begin his tenure with a “prepackaged vision for the organization” but instead plans to prioritize inclusivity within the organization.

“LACO has a primarily white audience, a primarily white board, a primarily white staff,” he said. “There’s a huge opportunity there for us to open our doors and transform our institution to more than just a place where everyone is welcome — where we proactively encourage and engage with communities that have historically not been part of classical music.”

He added later: “Classical music has throughout its history been a fairly exclusive place. We have a lot to atone for.”

Another priority, Cadwallader said, is bringing “an entirely different category of music lover to the table by creating conditions where musical experiences can unfold.”

The ensemble plays at venues throughout Southern California, including Royce Hall at UCLA and the Alex Theatre in Glendale, and has recently introduced its experimental “Session” music events in alternative spaces.

L.A. Chamber Orchestra continues its “Session” experiment with Christopher Rountree’s wild Up, the Four Larks theater troupe and a vibe that proves a welcoming departure.

Cadwallader cited past success with Vermont Symphony programs, including the sliding scale concert series Jukebox, which presents classical music in alternative spaces.

“When we bring more people to the table, when we craft experiences that are authentic, inclusive, interesting, innovative, approachable, we don’t do so at the expense of excellence,” he said. “We don’t do so at the expense of of playing serious classical music, we only augment it.”