The League of American Orchestras announced on April 3 that Simon Woods, a highly experienced and forward-looking leader in the orchestra field, has been named President and CEO of the League, effective September 1, 2020. Woods will guide the League in fulfilling its mission: to advance the experience of orchestral music, support the people and organizations that create it, and champion the contributions they make to the health and vibrancy of communities. He succeeds Jesse Rosen, who has served as President and CEO since 2008. Rosen announced in June 2019 that he would step down from his position at the League, and a Recruitment and Selection Committee of the League’s Board began a national search in fall 2019. The League plans to recognize Rosen’s successful tenure with events that will be scheduled after the COVID-19 pandemic passes.
Woods will work closely with the League’s staff and board to sustain and grow the organization’s programmatic excellence, its support for its members, and the prominent role it occupies in national arts advocacy. He will be a leading voice for the League’s 1,700 institutional and individual members—including orchestras across the 50 states and around the world—ensuring that the League empowers them with knowledge, perspective, and resources to navigate a rapidly changing environment.
Woods brings 32 years of experience in the field of orchestral music to the League. He is currently Interim Director of the Grand Teton Music Festival, having served as CEO of the Los Angeles Philharmonic Association (2018-19), President and CEO of the Seattle Symphony Orchestra (2011-17), Chief Executive of the Royal Scottish National Orchestra (2005-11), and President and CEO of the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra (2004-05). He was Vice President, Artistic Planning and Operations, for the Philadelphia Orchestra from 2002 to 2004, having joined the orchestra in 1997 after almost a decade as a classical CD producer at EMI Classics in London. Woods has a Bachelor of Arts in music (musicology, conducting, composition) from the University of Cambridge, Clare College, and a Postgraduate Diploma in Conducting from the Guildhall School of Music, London.
A long-time advocate for new music, Woods has been responsible for dozens of commissions of new works that have gone on to win prestigious awards. He has championed diversity and equity and has worked to create systemic change from the inside of the organizations he has run. A strong believer in the importance of community relationships, Woods has led programs focusing on access for young people, homelessness, prisons, and native tribe partnerships.
Passionately committed to the professional development of the orchestra leaders of the future, Woods has for two decades contributed to the League’s professional development programs. He is director of the League’s signature annual immersive training program, Essentials of Orchestra Management.
“We are thrilled that Simon will become our President and CEO, given his passion for orchestral music, his track record of advancing the League’s mission, and his vision for change as orchestras pursue deeper engagement with their communities,” said League Board Chair Douglas Hagerman. “In this time of pandemic and all of its challenges, Simon brings to the table not only strong, steady leadership, but also personal qualities that will nurture our organization and its members—qualities such as listening, integrity, and humanity. Simon will extend and embolden the critical work that Jesse Rosen has started.”
“I am truly humbled to take on this critical leadership role,” said Woods. “Orchestras have been at the center of my life since I first played clarinet in my local youth orchestra many years ago. They have given me my career, many of my friendships, and an undying sense of wonder about the magic that happens on stage when great musicians come together as one. We are deep into one of the most challenging periods that our world has ever experienced, but I have tremendous faith in our long-term prospects as we re-invent our art form, build authentic relationships with our communities, and reflect the vibrant cultural mix of the country on our stages and in our halls. Our field has never been more dynamic than it is today, and my pledge is to champion that dynamism and tirelessly support the amazing people—onstage and off—who make it possible.”