44. Deborah Borda

CEO of Los Angeles Philharmonic, How To Shake The Cobwebs Off Old Institutions

44. Deborah Borda

As the head of what’s locally known as “L.A. Phil,” Deborah Borda has made a 93-year-old, proper institution more nimble and modern: Its work is on iTunes and in movie theaters, and it’s reaching music lovers in new ways. Borda finds ideas in the inspirational words of others. These are two:

“Music is a fundamental human right.”

-Gustavo Dudamel, as he stepped into the role of Los Angeles Philharmonic principal conductor

“I had for years been focused specifically on the artistic imperative,” Borda says, “and those words shifted me to focus on the social world as well.” The result is Youth Orchestra Los Angeles, which provides free instruments and intensive musical training to underprivileged children. Bonus: It helped her make a new case to social-minded donors about why they should fund the arts.

“Let’s make the hall a living room for the city.”

-Architect Frank Gehry, in designing Disney Hall, L.A. Phil’s venue

Borda realized the L.A. Phil should be inviting–but few people listen only to classical music in their living room: “We made a decision to add a completely different spectrum of presentations.” She included world music, jazz, the American songbook, and brought in entirely new sets of audiences.


  • 1986

    Serves as president and managing director of St. Paul Chamber Orchestra

  • 1989

    Becomes executive director of Detroit Symphony Orchestra

  • 1991

    Becomes executive director of the New York Philharmonic

  • 2000

    Named president and CEO of Los Angeles Philharmonic

  • 2009

    Hires Gustavo Dudamel as LA Phil’s music director

  • 2010

    LA Phil wins the American League of Orchestras’ Morton Gould Award for Innovative Programming two years in a row

  • Creates Young Orchestra Los Angeles (YOLA), modeled on Venezuela’s groundbreaking El Sistema music education program

  • First LA Phil LIVE full concert performance is broadcasted from the Walt Disney Concert Hall to more than 450 movie theaters in the U.S. and Canada