• Image about Gustavo Dudamel
Clockwise from top left: Walt Disney Concert Hall exterior, Walt Disney Concert Hall auditorium and the Hollywood Bowl

The Soundtrack of the City
The Los Angeles Philharmonic has been praised as one of the most forward-thinking orchestras in the country. Here, a brief look at the past, present and future of this innovative company of performers.

It must have been daunting to be the son of William Andrews Clark.

On the one hand, there was a lot to live up to — the elder Clark was a successful Montana businessman in the 1800s who made his bones in the mining business and then later became a U.S. senator. Of course, he also was plagued by scandal in a votes-for-money scheme.

But the legacy of William Andrews Clark Jr. is sweeter to the ears, even today. The younger Clark, a noted philanthropist and amateur musician, founded the Los Angeles Philharmonic — the city’s first permanent symphony orchestra — in 1919.

Today, the LA Phil is in the midst of its 91st season. It has a magnetic new music director in Gustavo Dudamel and two unique venues in which it performs — the immediately iconic Walt Disney Concert Hall, which opened in 2003, and the venerable Hollywood Bowl. Indeed, the LA Phil appears determined to strengthen its status as a global heavyweight.

“The musical organization that has far and away the biggest budget is the Metropolitan Opera, with a budget of $275 million,” says Deborah Borda, who has served as president of the Los Angeles Philharmonic Association since January 2000. “After that, we’re the largest. We’re at $100 million. Back in 2000 we were half that. We run an average of 94 percent fill of the house. I think that’s unheard of anywhere else.”

Since the opening of Disney Hall, the Los Angeles Philharmonic Association has nearly doubled the number of its presentations and includes concerts of world music, jazz and baroque. It also hosts renowned visiting orchestras like the Berlin Philharmonic.

In the coming years, Borda hopes to do even more. “We always think about how this orchestra is evolving,” she says. “We have ongoing dialogue with orchestra members and the board of directors and our staff about what’s working and what isn’t. We risk things, and when they’re not working we change them.”

One area she hopes remains constant is the job of music director. “We hope Gustavo is with us for the next 20 years,” she says with a smile.