L.A. Chamber Orchestra names Scott Harrison as executive director
The board of the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra has tapped an executive from the Detroit Symphony to lead the 47-year-old classical music ensemble.
Scott Harrison currently serves as vice president for advancement and external relations at the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, which he joined in 2010. He is expected to start his new job as executive director the L.A. Chamber Orchestra in October.
Harrison, 35, will succeed Rachel Fine, who left the L.A. group earlier this year. The ensemble plays at venues throughout Southern California, including Royce Hall at UCLA and the Alex Theatre in Glendale.
The L.A. Chamber Orchestra has seen significant leadership shifts in the past year. In addition to Fine’s departure, music director Jeffrey Kahane announced last year that he would be stepping down from the podium at the end of the 2016-17 season after serving what will be a 20-year tenure. No successor has been announced yet.
Prior to joining the Detroit Symphony, Harrison worked at the Indianapolis Symphony and the New Jersey Symphony. As a student, he studied the bassoon.
He said the Detroit Symphony musicians strike, which ended in 2011, was a particularly tough period in his career.
“The strike was incredibly difficult. The city was in financial distress,” he said. “For me, what was challenging, once we decided we were moving forward, was how do we rebuild confidence and prove to folks that this is still a great orchestra?”
Harrison said he doesn’t foresee making any radical changes to the L.A. Chamber Orchestra. “I like what I’m seeing at LACO and want to join the culture,” he said.
The L.A. Chamber Orchestra is a relatively modest organization that spends a little less than $4 million annually. The ensemble posted a deficit of about $700,000 for the fiscal year ending 2014, the most recent period for which financial documents are available.
Donations had dropped by close to 50% from the previous year, and box-office receipts also declined.
Karin Burns, the company’s director of finance, said in an email that the minus $700,000 figure on the most recent tax-filing doesn’t include multi-year contributions that were required to be posted on prior years’ tax forms.
Audited financial statements show that the company saw an increase in unrestricted net assets of $54,816 for the fiscal year. However, total net assets for the period were down $359,458.
Like many classical music organizations, the L.A. Chamber Orchestra has had to contend with a challenging fundraising environment. In 2012, the company received a $1-million challenge gift from Terri and Jerry Kohl. It was the largest gift in the organization’s history.
The orchestra will kick off its new season on Sept. 19 and 20 with performances at the Alex Theatre and Royce Hall.
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