Martha Gilmer, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra Association’s vice president of artistic planning and audience development/the Richard and Mary L. Gray Chair, will become the chief executive officer of the San Diego Symphony, effective Sept. 24.
“For 35 years, I have called the Chicago Symphony Orchestra my artistic home, and it will forever have a place in my heart,” Gilmer said in a statement released Thursday. “It has been a true honor to work with the finest musicians in the world — music directors Riccardo Muti, Daniel Barenboim and Sir Georg Solti; the musicians of the orchestra and chorus, and incredible conductors and soloists. I have worked with the most dedicated and talented colleagues on the CSO administrative team, and worked alongside visionary volunteer leaders and donors. Importantly, I have been moved by the dedication and appreciation of the audiences that love the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Chorus as much as I do, in Chicago and around the world. All of this I take with me as I take on a new challenge with the San Diego Symphony.”
Established in 1910, the San Diego Symphony is the oldest orchestra in California, with an annual budget of $20 million and approximately 140 performances. Gilmer succeeds Edward Gill, who announced in December that he would retire at the start of the 2014/15 season.
In a message to the CSO staff, CSOA Chairman Jay Henderson noted the deep respect and admiration of Gilmer’s work by CSO music directors Muti, Barenboim and Solti, along with CSO artistic leaders such as Bernard Haitink, Pierre Boulez and Yo-Yo Ma. “As she advanced in the organization and took on increasing responsibility, she oversaw the creation of more than a third of the 124 seasons of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra Association,” Henderson said. “Her work and reputation are recognized internationally, and her dedication to audiences and artists, as well as her commitment to presenting extraordinary music and pushing the boundaries of the art form, is exceptional. I know that the entire CSOA Board and staff, as well as the CSO musicians, wish her the very best as she takes on a new challenge in her distinguished career.”
Gilmer traveled to Italy last week and shared this news with Muti, who congratulated her on this career opportunity. “Her creativity and her passion for music come through in the many innovative programs and festivals that have been enjoyed by audiences in Chicago and around the world,” Muti said in a statement. “She has been an invaluable partner to me as I am sure she was also to Sir Georg Solti and Daniel Barenboim. I am happy that San Diego, the beautiful city where we were together with the CSO on its most recent West Coast tour, will gain from her long experience, and I wish her much success in the future.”
Though Gilmer will begin her new post in September, she will work over the next two months to ensure a smooth transition at Symphony Center. Her contract with the San Diego Symphony, whose music director is Jahja Ling, runs through the 2016/17 season there.
In a statement, Gilmer said, “The San Diego Symphony has impressed me artistically and with its commitment to the San Diego community. The board leadership is passionate about music, and believes that the music and the musicians are at the core of the orchestra’s mission, which is critically important. In meeting board members, Music Director Jahja Ling, musicians, and staff leadership, I felt a shared passion and desire for continued artistic growth of this orchestra. After 35 wonderful years at the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, I look forward to a new challenge and to becoming a member of the San Diego Symphony family and of the cultural community of San Diego.”
Shearn Platt, chairman of the San Diego Symphony board, said in a statement, “[Gilmer’s] name in the music world is synonymous with great artistic vision, dynamic leadership and audience development through original programming,” referring to Gilmer-led innovations such as Beyond the Score, Classic Encounters and Afterwork Masterworks at Symphony Center. “As the San Diego Symphony is poised for a new era, we are certain that Martha is the right person to lead us in the years ahead. We look forward to welcoming her to our San Diego Symphony family.”
PHOTO: Martha Gilmer with Riccardo Muti, on a CSO tour stop. | Todd Rosenberg Photography