Boston Symphony Leader Leaves Less Than Two Years Into Her Tenure

Gail Samuel, who took the helm of the storied Boston Symphony Orchestra last year as its first female president and chief executive, has resigned from her post just 18 months into her tenure, the orchestra said on Friday.

The orchestra announced that its board of trustees had accepted Samuel’s resignation, effective Jan. 3, and that Jeffrey D. Dunn — a member of its advisory board — would step in as the interim leader once she departs. Neither the institution nor Samuel immediately offered a reason.

Samuel took over in June 2021, following the 23-year tenure of Mark Volpe — a leader in the classical music field who maintained a robust endowment and preserved the orchestra’s reputation as one of the most important in the United States. She came from the Los Angeles Philharmonic, where she worked for nearly three decades, most recently as its chief operating officer.

She joined the Boston Symphony at a time when its health was battered by the pandemic — its wealth wounded by lost revenues and its recovery uncertain as audiences timidly and slowly return to live performances.

“This is a difficult time for everyone, and I think every organization is going to be thinking about how to come out of this,” Samuel told The New York Times last year. “It’s a long path, but there’s also an opportunity to think about things differently.”

In a statement, Barbara Hostetter, the chair of the Boston Symphony’s board of trustees, said: “At a time when stabilizing the institution was of paramount priority, Gail was a steadying force. She also led the B.S.O. through a vital turning point of generational change, setting in motion a creative vision that reflects the B.S.O.’s commitment to diversity.”

The Boston Symphony declined to comment further on Samuel’s departure. In a statement, Samuel said: “It was an honor to lead the Boston Symphony Orchestra, one of the world’s most celebrated orchestras, particularly during such a significant time in history.

“When I arrived at the B.S.O., I was dedicated to reopening Tanglewood and Symphony Hall, and to increasing creativity at the B.S.O. by welcoming artists to our stages more broadly representing the rich diversity that exists in our city,” she continued. “After navigating the profoundly complicated reopening matters and having successfully laid the groundwork for continued evolution at the B.S.O., I have decided to step down. The end of the season and Holiday Pops performances offer a natural time with limited disruption.”

Dunn was, until his retirement in 2021, the executive chairman, president and chief executive of Sesame Workshop, which produces “Sesame Street.” He said in a statement, “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.”

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