Boston Symphony Orchestra Appoints Gail Samuel as its First Female President & CEO

By Chris Ruel

The Boston Symphony Orchestra appointed Gail Samuel as its first female Julian and Eunice Cohen President and Chief Executive Officer.

The appointment will be finalized on June 21. Upon Samuel’s installation, she will be the eighth president of the 140-year-old renowned music organization.

Samuel will oversee the BSO, the Boston Pops, and Tanglewood and tasked with leading key initiatives to expand the reach and relevance of classical music in Boston and beyond.

As a seasoned arts administration veteran, Samuel’s 25 years in senior leadership at LA Philharmonic, first as the organization’s COO, overseeing the largest operating budget of any orchestra in the United States, and then as President of the Hollywood Bowl and the Philharmonic, produced record financial growth, strong community partnerships, and several ground-breaking programs and performance spaces.

Her roles at the Philharmonic include Orchestra Manager, General Manager, and Vice President of Philharmonic and Production. In 2012, the organization appointed Samuel to COO and three years later, promoted her to Executive Director. She twice served as Acting President and CEO.

In a statement put out by the BSO, Samuel recounted her time in LA as excellent preparation for her new role at the BSO.

“There is no better place than the Los Angeles Philharmonic to understand the sophisticated inner workings of a musical organization centered around a symphony orchestra, and I will forever be grateful for the lasting relationships and the experience afforded me at the LA Phil,” said Samuel. “The opportunity now to lead one of the world’s best orchestras, in a rapidly changing metropolitan area such as Boston, is an exciting new challenge and a dream project. The BSO’s assets are tremendous—from its phenomenal Orchestra, to the beloved Boston Pops, Symphony Hall and Tanglewood with the Tanglewood Music Center, and the new Tanglewood Learning Institute. I see endless opportunity and look forward to working with my colleagues and the Board of Trustees to explore new traditions while building on the strong foundation brilliantly established by Mark Volpe. I am deeply grateful to the BSO Board of Trustees for entrusting me with this honor.”

Selected after a rigorous international search that began in April 2020, the Board unanimously approved the appointment. Outgoing Julian and Eunice Cohen BSO President and CEO, Mark Volpe, who worked at the BSO for 23 years, had this to say about his successor.

“Gail Samuel is one of the country’s most accomplished leaders in the world of music. I am pleased that Gail will guide the orchestra through its next chapter, post-pandemic, and I am certain she will inspire new ideas and thinking that will ensure the BSO continues to flourish by bringing its extraordinary gifts to the widest possible audiences for many years to come. The Boston Symphony Orchestra’s legacy of achievements, built upon decades of dedication by its musicians, boards, staff, and management, represents commitment to the highest standards of institutional excellence. The Boston Symphony Orchestra is certain to continue to thrive and prosper under Gail Samuel,” Vople stated in the BSO announcement.