While the LA Phil is still in the wake of longtime Executive Director Deborah Borda‘s September departure for New York, the organization is losing another one of its leaders to Boston-based National Public Radio show, From the Top with Christiopher O’Riley. The award-winning show will install Gretchen Nielsen as their first Executive Director, replacing the departing co-founders as of March 1st.
The Phil has been surprisingly quiet about this departure, leaving Slipped Disc to be one of the only outlets reporting the news in Norman Lebrecht’s signature pithy fashion. He reports that the org has also lost artistic administrator Nate Bachhuber to the Cincinnati Orchestra. LA Phil has, indeed, already started a public search for Bachhuber’s replacement, as well as a project manager that would take on part of Nielsen’s duties.
While Lebrecht’s calling these few goodbyes an approximation of “mass flight” is a bit much, it is clear that Borda’s tenure at the Phil has attracted good talent and nurtured the kind of skills that would certainly be desirable at other organizations. The impact of this loss of top admin leadership remains to be seen. But while this transition is likely to be considerable, there’s no need for hysteria.
From the Top is clearly delighted about Nielsen as their new leader, and what she brings to the table. With her extensive experience in arts education, she is hailed as a fresh new voice that will revitalize the show that has already won respect across the country.
Locally, From the Top can be heard on KUSC, Sunday nights at 6pm.
Press release follows.
From the Top Hires Arts and Education Leader Gretchen Nielsen as Executive Director
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE — January 10, 2018
Boston, Massachusetts—The Board of Directors of From the Top, producer of the hit NPR show From the Top with Host Christopher O’Riley, is pleased to announce that, after an extensive national search, the organization has selected Los Angeles Philharmonic (LA Phil) Vice President Gretchen Nielsen to serve as its first Executive Director. Nielsen follows in the footsteps of [FTP] Co-Founders/CEOs Gerald Slavet and Jennifer Hurley-Wales, and will begin her tenure on March 1, 2018.
Drawing on more than 20 years of experience leading national and international arts initiatives, including launching Youth Orchestra Los Angeles (YOLA) with LA Phil’s Music & Artistic Director Gustavo Dudamel, Nielsen will take the reins of From the Top at a pivotal time. Since 2016, From the Top, which showcases and supports young classically-trained musicians ages 8–18, has been thoughtfully planning for the future, focusing on harnessing new technologies and diversifying and expanding audiences.
“The Board is beyond thrilled to have recruited Gretchen as our next leader,” said Jeffrey F. Rayport, Chair of From the Top’s Board of Directors. “Her work at the LA Phil with YOLA and beyond demonstrates the entrepreneurial spirit, creativity, and ambition we were seeking. We are actively reimagining From the Top for the next generation, and are confident that Gretchen’s professional acumen and deep passion for the development of young artists will help us build on our past success while charting a bold new chapter in From the Top’s story.”
Nielsen will be exploring ways to expand From the Top’s presence nationally and develop new media programs and outlets to increase its impact among audiences and artists of diverse backgrounds.
“I am thrilled to bring all my learning, experience, and passion to an organization that I have long admired,” said Nielsen. “From the Top has played a critical role in the life of young artists by sharing their inspiring stories and music with the public. Together with Christopher O’Riley, the Board, the staff, more than 3,000 alumni, and From the Top’s network of partners around the country, I look forward to leading the organization into a new era.”
Christopher O’Riley, the host of NPR’s From the Top since 1997, said, “From the Top musicians are changing the face of music and activism in America. They impress us with their talent and skill, but also how they seek out new collaborations and projects to make music an essential part of today’s world. I look forward to working with Gretchen to amplify their stories, and also to empower the next generation of great young performers who will define the future.”