The Philadelphia Orchestra is still looking for a permanent music director, but after a year-long search it has found its new executive director.
The Philadelphia Orchestra is still looking for a permanent music director, but after a year-long search it has found its new Executive Director. Allison Vulgamore has been with the Atlanta Orchestra, where she doubled its endowment and tripled its budget in 15 years. It’s a homecoming for the 51 year-old who began her career in Philadelphia, as the executive assistant to former Orchestra Director Seymour Rosen. Yesterday WHYY’s Arts and Culture reporter Peter Crimmins sat down with Vulgamore to asked her what is the same and what’s different.
Vulgamore: Faces of the orchestra looked familiar. We looked at each other and realized we do know each other. What’s exciting is to see all the new that’s happening in Philadelphia – the fringe festivals and cafes and night life and the walking, that’s very exciting.
Crimmins: You’re coming at a time of anxiety in the orchestra because there’s a leadership in transition and an economic hardship. I’m wondering how you’re going to approach this.
Vulgamore: I look at coming to the Philadelphia Orchestra as potentially it’s most creative time, not a time of anxiety – we all feel that in our tummy every day. But the reality check is that there is a lot of fodder that can come from these kinds of decisions that will have to be made going forward. it’s kind of like designing the next era of the piladelphia orhcestra.
Crimmins: Do you see that the orchestra has to be transformed at all? Is this a chance to revamp things?
Vulgamore: Transformation for me has a lot of layers. Does the great musical capacity and prowess of the Philadelphia Orchestra have to be changed? Absolutely not – this is one of the great orch of the world. And that’s good news, because that’s hard to create. We have the diamond. What does need to be transformed is the infrastructure for keeping it in an environment where it can experiment artistically, having a sense of tomorrow being safe in finances. And perhaps being willing to love the legacy of the Philadelphia orchestra but imagine the next era of that legacy.
Crimmins: Is there an area that you’re starting with, or something you see immediately walking in that you want to address?
Vulgamore: Yes! There are three areas. Number one, I’m eager to join music director search committee. Clearly that’s a great partner everyone waits for. I know what it’s like to come in when there are no plans and only fiscal challenges – I want to have a planning model of numbers we all know and understand. Because there is a lot of speculation and it is a humbling time, fiscally. The third things is I’m eager to spend time with people who know the orchestra best, it’s musicians and staff and board. I’m looking to be a prober of the kinds of questions we haven’t asked for a long time. Programming, venues, education, media, artistic concert formats, everything.
Crimmins: You mentioned you wanted everyone on the same page, in terms of numbers. Is everyone not on the same page?
Vulgamore: What I want to express is there is so much passion about the fiscal health of Philadelphia Orchestra, there can be individual interpretations of the numbers. I want to look through the same lens to find where solutions are going to be found, so that we don’t have individual agendas, but the most powerful collective agenda and approach we can have.