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Changing of a Guardian at the BSO


While we may have heard off-the-record grumblings for some months from BSO staffers, we were hardly prepared for the swiftness of the remedy…if we are even right in so regarding the announcements of the simultaneous resignation of President and Chief Executive Officer Gail Samuel and appointment of Jeffrey D. Dunn as interim in that capacity as of January 4, 2023. Eighteen months ago the BSO had lots of hopes that Samuel, its first woman CEO, would bring some of her LA Phil liveliness and relevance to the comparatively staid BSO. Rather than hearing Schadenfreude in response to this turnover, we note expressions of sadness over the lost opportunities and early departure.

The BSO trustees, who guard the guardians, quote Samuel: “When I arrived at the BSO, I was dedicated to re-opening Tanglewood and Symphony Hall and to increasing creativity at the BSO by welcoming artists to our stages more broadly representing the rich diversity that exists in our city. After navigating the profoundly complicated re-opening matters and having successfully laid the groundwork for continued evolution at the BSO, I have decided to step down.”

“Jeff Dunn is a much-admired executive, recognized across industries for an innate ability to lead complex organizations with sound judgment and innovative ideas,” said Barbara Hostetter, Chair, Board of Trustees, Boston Symphony Orchestra. “We especially hold immense respect for Jeff’s experience in guiding organizations in times of change and are grateful to have him help us continue our forward momentum.”

Before his retirement in 2021, Dunn served as Executive Chairman, President & CEO of Sesame Workshop, the nonprofit educational organization that produces Sesame Street, the most awarded and influential show in the history of television. Under Dunn’s leadership, Sesame Workshop ended eight years of operating losses, won 38 Emmy awards, a George Foster Peabody Award, a Kennedy Center Honors award, and was named multiple times to Fast Company‘s most innovative companies list.

Dunn, a longtime resident of Boston’s Back Bay, a graduate of both Harvard College and Harvard University Graduate School of Business Administration, and a 30-year BSO subscriber writes, “In these turbulent times, music is a universal language that lifts us up, connects us, … I am honored to lend my executive experience to this incredible organization and look forward to collaborating with Music Director Andris Nelsons as the organization continues on its important path of cultural progress and financial stability.”


6 Comments [leave a civil comment (others will be removed) and please disclose relevant affiliations]

  1. In other words they were total misfits.

    Comment by Fred wanger — December 16, 2022 at 1:24 pm

  2. Does this explain why the Tanglewood schedule has not yet been announced? (At least, I haven’t seen it.)


    Comment by Don Drewecki — December 16, 2022 at 2:14 pm

  3. I had great hope that Ms Samuels would bring some California sunshine and stay a long time. It certainly appears entrenched forces did win out. Sounds like a good interim cleaning is what they need organizationally. 1. What no concertmaster yet? 2. Clean up the WCRB-GBH relationship. There orchestra could use a voice more like the Chicago orchestra has as announcer. 3. A little more variety in programming. The constant chestnut programs could be more varied. 4. Does the organization do too many concerts between T the Boston season, the two rounds of pops and then Tanglewood? 5. The video concerts on demand needs a lot of work. Anyway, best to the BSO and the new leadership. Thanks Ms Samuel for the hard work.

    Comment by Stephen Marcus — December 17, 2022 at 9:22 am

  4. Rumor and reporting and more here, with many interesting (also uninteresting) disputatious / disputed comments following each:

    Comment by david moran — December 21, 2022 at 1:25 pm

  5. Also note that the Boston Globe’s article by Malcolm Gay, published Friday morning, was withdrawn from the Globe web site some 48 hours later. ArtsJournal had linked to it with the headline, “Well that didn’t last long”. Well, neither did Gay’s article.

    Comment by Brian Bell — December 21, 2022 at 4:28 pm


    Comment by Jim M — December 22, 2022 at 5:28 pm

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