NEW YORK – Deborah Borda will retire as president and CEO of the New York Philharmonic at the end of the 2022-23 season and will be succeeded by Gary Ginstling, head of Washington’s National Symphony Orchestra since 2017.
Borda, who turns 73 on July 15, returned to the Philharmonic in 2017 for her second stint in charge and presided over the unprecedented dual challenges of the coronavirus pandemic and the reconstruction of David Geffen Hall, the orchestra’s long-maligned Lincoln Center home that reopens Oct. 7.
Ginstling will become the Philharmonic’s executive director on Nov. 1 and take over from Borda when she retires June 30, 2023. Borda will then became executive adviser to Ginstling and the board of directors, a role in which she will concentrate on fundraising and anticipates cutting her work hours in half.
“We had a wild five years, which have been tremendous,” Borda said Friday. “We’ve managed to take COVID and turn it into a positive thing and open the hall almost two years early, on time and on budget.”
Borda said she and Ginstling both will be part of the search for a successor to Jaap van Zweden, who announced in September that he will leave at the end of the 2023-24 season after six years as music director, the shortest tenure of anyone in a half-century. Borda said it is not certain whether a decision will be made before she steps down, but if the search extends past next summer, she will continue to advise on it.
Ginstling said he was contacted by a search firm in late February or early March, and talks were finalized in May. He thought back to hearing the Philharmonic under music director Zubin Mehta and attending Leonard Bernstein’s Mahler concerts.
“It’s a combination of the New York Philharmonic’s storied history, its really innovative work in recent years and then the enormous potential that I see for the future as David Geffen Hall prepares to reopen,” he said. “My love for orchestras, my passion for orchestral music, it started with the New York Philharmonic. It was the first professional orchestra I ever heard. I can remember in junior high school going to concerts. My parents were subscribers to the Philharmonic for decades.”
Ginstling, 56, was born in Queens and grew up in New Jersey. He received a bachelor’s degree from Yale, a master’s degree in music from The Juilliard School where he studied clarinet, and a master’s in business administration from UCLA.
He served as executive director of the Berkeley Symphony Orchestra from 2003-06, director of communications and external affairs of the San Francisco Symphony from 2006-08 and general manager of the Cleveland Orchestra from 2008-13. Ginstling was CEO of the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra before replacing Rita Shapiro as the NSO’s executive director in 2017.
With the NSO, Ginstling inherited Gianandrea Noseda, hired by Shapiro in January 2016 to become music director for the 2017-18 season. Ginstling negotiated a pair of extensions for Noseda, first in September 2018 through 2024-25 and then this month through 2026-27.
Borda navigated a pandemic that caused the cancellation of the final 33 concerts of 2019-20 plus all 119 concerts of 2020-21. and she accelerated the $550 million reconstruction of Geffen Hall. The Philharmonic returned from the pandemic to split the 2021-22 season between Lincoln Center’s Alice Tully Hall and Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Rose Theater.
A native New Yorker and a former violist, Borda held top management positions with the San Francisco Symphony, Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra and Detroit Symphony Orchestra before she was hired as managing director of the New York Philharmonic in 1991. She announced her departure in September 1999 to become president and CEO of the Los Angeles Philharmonic.
“I did leave in frustration in ’99 because I just felt like we could not make progress with what really seriously needed to be done to renovate the hall,” she said, “and then when 17 years later the board came back and I saw that there was a real possibility for this to happen but it was going to need a very heavy lift, it just felt like a perfect circle. It was unfinished business.”
Borda oversaw the opening of Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles, and in 2007, hired acclaimed young conductor Gustavo Dudamel to succeed Esa-Pekka Salonen as music director for the 2009-10 season.
“In the orchestra world, there’s a clear consensus that Deborah has certainly been one of if not the most transformational leaders in our field,” Ginstling said. “The chance to work alongside her and then eventually to succeed her is for me the opportunity of a lifetime.”