(WASHINGTON)—The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts President Deborah F. Rutter and National Symphony Orchestra Board Chairman Ronald Abramson have announced the appointment of Jean Davidson to the position of Executive Director of the National Symphony Orchestra (NSO), effective April 1, 2023. Davidson succeeds Gary Ginstling, who left the NSO in October 2022 to become the executive director of the New York Philharmonic.
Currently based in Los Angeles, Davidson is the president and CEO of the Los Angeles Master Chorale, the largest professional chorus in America. She has led the organization through the pandemic into a period of exponential growth and increased relevance; through her work in strategic planning, high-profile recording projects, and touring. Previously, she has held the top position at The Silk Road Project (now Silkroad) in its earliest years, shaping it into the groundbreaking organization it has become. In New York, she also oversaw the successful merger of the Bill T. Jones / Arnie Zane Dance Company and the Dance Theatre Workshop into the organization now known as New York Live Arts.
Kennedy Center President Deborah F. Rutter says, “Jean’s leadership is unmatched in many ways. As an executive she has thrived finding order in complexity and finding opportunities in obstacles. As a visionary, she has commissioned new works that live alongside the canonical and, ever more importantly, she invites audiences to believe in the power of that combination. The Kennedy Center is the home of the NSO and I look forward to working with Jean to elevate and support the innovative work the NSO will continue to do.”
“Jean rose to the top of a highly competitive pool of candidates,” Chair of the Search Committee and Vice Chairman of the NSO Board of Directors Joan Bialek and NSO Board Chairman Ronald Abramson said. “The search committee, comprised of NSO Board members, staff, and musicians, took great care in what was a very thorough process. We were all impressed by Jean’s unique combination of high-level executive experience and her futuristic, start-up mentality. This combination of innovative spirit and calm, strategic focus that Jean brings, will prove vital for pushing the NSO forward.”
Music Director Gianandrea Noseda said of Jean Davidson: “I met Jean and instantly knew that this was going to be the start of a powerful collaboration for me, the artists of the National Symphony Orchestra, and the Kennedy Center. Jean thoroughly understands the state of today’s cultural landscape and has experience bringing multifaceted artistic projects from concept to the stage. She will bring her wide-reaching background and belief in the power of music to the position. We are all looking forward to working with her and welcoming her to Washington, D.C.”
Jean Davidson said of her appointment: “The intelligence and international reputation of Gianandrea Noseda, with whom I felt an immediate connection, the superb artistry of the Orchestra, the Board’s commitment to the future, and the dedication of the administration attracted me to this opportunity. I want to think deeply about what it means to be based in our nation’s capital in 2023, serving audiences locally, nationally, and internationally. I see enormous opportunities to further the rich history of the NSO, and the field at large, as we plan for the Orchestra’s 100th anniversary in 2030–2031. While eager to begin my new work, I want to express my gratitude and admiration for Grant Gershon and the Los Angeles Master Chorale community.”
About Jean Davidson
Jean Davidson was appointed president & CEO of the Los Angeles Master Chorale in 2015. Prior positions include founding chief executive of New York Live Arts, chief executive of the Bill T. Jones / Arnie Zane Dance Company, and founding managing director of the Silk Road Project. During her career she has helped produce more than 200 new productions in music, theater, and dance.
In 2020, a new strategic plan was adopted by the Los Angeles Master Chorale Board of Directors to support Davidson and artistic director Grant Gershon’s vision for the Master Chorale. The four pillars of the plan are to sharpen focus on equity, diversity, inclusion, and access; increase participation in choral music; ensure continued artistic success; and achieve greater financial stability.
From 2015 to 2019, the Los Angeles Master Chorale’s budget grew by over 50%, driven by increased contributed revenue and earned revenue generated through new international touring. In 2016, Davidson instigated a successful re-branding and re-positioning of the organization to uphold and fulfill the organization’s core values while also encouraging artistic daring and audience engagement.
In 2011, as chief executive of the Bill T. Jones / Arnie Zane Dance Company, she led the merger discussions with Dance Theater Workshop—including a multi-million-dollar campaign—to form New York Live Arts, a 20,000 square-foot center for interdisciplinary performance located in Chelsea, New York City. The merger was a case study at New York University’s Steinhardt School in 2011 and at Yale University’s School of Management in 2013. She subsequently served as the founding CEO of New York Live Arts until 2015.
Davidson was appointed the founding managing director of the Silk Road Project in 2001. While at the Silk Road Project she was involved with producing the expansive Smithsonian Folklife Festival, The Silk Road: Connecting Culture, Creating Trust, and in planning the Silk Road Ensemble’s participation in the World Expo in Nagoya, Japan. She has also been involved with producing several commercial recordings and documentary films with Sony Classical, Smithsonian Folkways, NHK, ARTE, and Kartemquin Films, and she has planned numerous tours, commissions, and collaborations.
A former professional lighting designer, Davidson has toured internationally with Yo-Yo Ma, and other musical and dance artists. A graduate of Oberlin College, Davidson studied theater, and began her career working for the American Dance Festival, Cleveland Play House, American Conservatory Theater (A.C.T.), and others. She served as a lecturer at Oberlin College for five years, and currently serves as a guest lecturer on critical thinking at University of California, Irvine’s Paul Merage School of Business. She has guest taught at New York University’s Steinhardt School and Tisch School of the Arts, and the Università di Bologna arts management graduate program.
National Symphony Orchestra
The 2022–2023 season marks the National Symphony Orchestra’s 92nd season, and Gianandrea Noseda’s sixth season as its music director. The Italian conductor serves as the Orchestra’s seventh music director, joining the NSO’s legacy of such distinguished leaders as Christoph Eschenbach, Leonard Slatkin, Mstislav Rostropovich, Antal Doráti, Howard Mitchell, and Hans Kindler. Its artistic leadership also includes Principal Pops Conductor Steven Reineke and Artistic Advisor Ben Folds.
Since assuming the leadership of the NSO, Gianandrea Noseda has brought a renewed sense of energy and focus to the orchestra, which has resulted in wide-ranging recognition from local, national, and international publications, increases in subscription and single ticket sales, and the expansion of the Orchestra’s reach through live streamed concerts and recordings. The New York Times called the NSO and Noseda’s 2019 Carnegie Hall appearance “spectacular,” while the Washington Post wrote that “There’s a certain flair going on at the National Symphony Orchestra,” consistently reinforcing that this artistic partnership continues to gain momentum.
The National Symphony Orchestra label was launched in 2020 with its first release, Dvořàk’s Symphony No. 9. Both George Walker’s Sinfonia No. 4, the first of the NSO’s complete collection of George Walker’s Sinfonias, and the initial release of the NSO’s Beethoven Symphony cycle (Symphonies Nos. 1 & 3) was released in 2022.
Founded in 1931, the Orchestra has always been committed to artistic excellence and music education. In 1986, the National Symphony became an artistic affiliate of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, where it has performed a full season of subscription concerts since the Center opened in 1971. The 96-member NSO regularly participates in events of national and international importance, including official holiday celebrations through its regularly televised appearances on PBS on the lawn of the U.S. Capitol for Capital Concerts, live-streamed performances from the Kennedy Center Concert Hall on medici.tv, and local radio broadcasts on Classical WETA 90.9 FM, making the NSO one of the most-heard orchestras in the country.
Additionally, the NSO’s community engagement projects are nationally recognized, including NSO In Your Neighborhood, an annual week of performances in schools, churches, community centers, and other unexpected venues; Notes of Honor, which offers free performances for active, veteran, prior service, and retired members of the military and their families; and Sound Health, a collaboration with the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and its affiliated organizations. Career development opportunities for young musicians include the NSO Youth Fellowship Program and its acclaimed, tuition-free Summer Music Institute.