American Composers Orchestra (ACO) is the only orchestra in the world dedicated to the legacy and future of orchestral music by American composers. Through concerts, readings, professional development and education programs ACO identifies today's brightest emerging composers and champions prominent established composers. ACO increases regional, national and international awareness of the infinite variety of American orchestral music, reflecting gender, ethnic, geographic, stylistic and generational diversity in its programming. The organization serves as an incubator of ideas, research, and talent; as a catalyst for growth and change in the orchestral field; and as an advocate for American composers and their music.
Founded in 1977 by a visionary group of artists and their supporters, ACO has performed music by 800 American composers, including over 350 world premieres and commissioned works. ACO concerts at venues across New York City, including Carnegie Hall and Rose Theater at Jazz at Lincoln Center, have highlighted a wide range of orchestral music, including World, U.S. and New York premieres and works by accomplished American Master composers. Commissioned composers include Philip Glass, Tania León, Paquito D’Rivera, Joan Tower, Henry Threadgill and more recently Nina C. Young, Du Yun, Courtney Bryan, Alex Temple and Carlos Simon. ACO advances programming that is innovative, engaging, and opens the orchestra to diverse new influences and audiences. ACO strives to represent a myriad of voices and challenges the status quo by supporting creative artists from North, Central, and South Americas, including BIPOC, immigrant, women, transgender, and nonbinary artists.
ACO offers an array of programs for emerging composers including its own annual New Music readings in New York City - which has served over 150 composers since its inception - and EarShot readings, which are offered in partnership with orchestras across the country. These Readings provide the rare opportunity for emerging composers to hear their original works played by a professional orchestra. Annually, ACO-produced Readings that supported 15-20 emerging composers, who receive a professional orchestra reading and recording of their work, as well as mentorship from established composers. Readings composers have gone on to win every major composition award, including the Pulitzer, Grammy, Grawemeyer, American Academy of Arts and Letters, and Rome Prizes.
For nearly two decades, ACO has brought composers and musical teaching artists into New York City public schools through Sonic Spark (formerly known as Music Factory). Sonic Spark aims to leverage composition as a platform for creativity, and creativity as a platform for achievement in all areas of student’s life. Students in Brooklyn, Bronx, Manhattan and Queens work directly with professional composers to create and perform original music. ACO also offers the intensive Compose Yourself! seminars, during which high school and college composers participate in hands-on composition classes, culminating in a performance of student compositions played by ACO’s professional musicians.
ACO has received many special awards for its work, including those from the American Academy of Arts and Letters and from BMI recognizing the orchestra’s outstanding contribution to American music. ASCAP has awarded ACO its annual prize for adventurous programming 35 times, singling out ACO as “the orchestra that has done the most for new American music in the United States.” ACO received the inaugural MetLife Award for Excellence in Audience Engagement and a proclamation from the New York City Council. ACO recordings are available on ARGO, CRI, ECM, Point, Phoenix USA, Music Masters, Nonesuch, and New World Records.
THE ROLE OF PRESIDENT:
The President is the chief executive officer of ACO and reports to the Board of Directors through the Chairperson. She/he/they provide the leadership and strategic vision that enable ACO to fulfill its mission and achieve its artistic, financial, and organizational goals. She/he/they are responsible and accountable for all aspects of ACO’s operations and strategy including strategic planning, artistic administration, financial management, fundraising, marketing, audience development, public relations and promotion, concert production, human resources, education, and community engagement. The President serves as an ex-officio voting member of the Board of Directors.
We are looking for candidates who can lead the organization into the future by innovating to overcome the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, developing strategic and creative partnerships, investigating new operating models and funding structures, nurturing and growing an active orchestral music community for new music, and strengthening ACO’s position as a national leader in advocacy for American composers and their work. Executives from the music world outside of orchestras are encouraged to apply. The ideal candidate is a systems thinker with a passion for orchestral music who is well immersed in orchestral music and the performing arts, who brings strong personal and professional networks (especially within the New York City arts community), and who possesses administrative excellence and the ability to successfully develop and launch bold initiatives. The new President must be able to inspire, build community, and collaborate with the Artistic and Music Directors in creating outstanding, novel performance experiences.
DUTIES AND RESPONSIBILITIES:
Commit to furthering the mission of ACO by championing the work of American composers.
Define optimal business model and strategy for ACO.
Use media and technology to expand the reach of ACO’s work on behalf of American music and composers throughout the world.
Serve alongside the Artistic Director and Music Director as a visible representative and spokesperson for ACO with the organization’s many stakeholders, community partners, and presenters. Participate in local, regional, and national organizations as an advocate for the work of ACO.
Work in close partnership with the Artistic Director and Music Director in evaluating existing activities, refining current programs, and upholding and strengthening the artistic standards of the orchestra with the goal of being acknowledged as a first-class ensemble.
Apply new ways to solve complex situations including branding of the organization, increasing visibility of concerts and programs, enhancing ticket sales with a goal of filling the house, maximizing social media, and creating new opportunities to be more prominent.
Strengthen and expand partnerships and collaborations with a wide range of arts organizations locally and nationally to promote awareness, understanding, and appreciation for the American orchestral repertoire and the artists who create that repertoire.
Take a leadership role in fundraising. Actively identify, cultivate, and solicit gifts from all sources and understand the importance of stewardship.
Assist the board in identifying and recruiting potential members of the governing board.
Ensure that the Board and its committees have timely and accurate information to support their decision-making.
Oversee the preparation of the annual operating budget and monitor performance against budget.
Engage, supervise, motivate and evaluate a high-caliber professional staff.
Ensure diversity, equity and inclusion throughout the organization.
Minimum BS or BA degree plus 7 years of progressively responsible positions in managing mission driven, non-profit organizations. Substantial orchestra management experience and deep relationships within the orchestral world are preferred. Substantial experience with and understanding of the broader music and performing arts ecosystem is preferred.
Passion for mission of ACO. Knowledge of American music is a plus.
Open, approachable, and personable.
Demonstrates the ability to listen and ask insightful questions, superb communication skills, a talent for articulating a vision, and a knack for synthesizing opinions from many constituencies into a set of cohesive tactics.
Entrepreneurial, is willing to embrace both big picture strategic challenges and the administrative details that come with running a small organization.
Proven commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion; ability to build and lead effective, high-performing teams and to develop and nurture staff by creating a collaborative environment with clear expectations and a respectful culture.
Experience with strategic planning process and execution.
Excellent budgeting and financial skills combined with an eye for detail.
History of successful fundraising from a broad range of donors, corporations, foundations, and governmental sources.
Demonstrated poise, integrity, and gravitas in representing the institution and use of that public persona to develop new opportunities for the organization.
Ability to deal effectively with uncertainty and a rapidly changing cultural environment.
Innovator and catalyst who can assist in the growth and development of the organization and promote American composers throughout the field.
Additional Salary Information: Compensation: Competitive and commensurate with experience. Benefits included.
About HC Smith Ltd
HC Smith Ltd is a retained executive search and consulting firm. For more than 30 years, HC Smith Ltd has been recognized as a very successful family-owned boutique firm. Our business and our passion is people. We serve a broad range of clients, from Fortune 500 companies to world-class orchestras and museums, as well as institutions in the public and educational sector. Consultants include Principals Herbert Smith and Becca Smith along with Senior Consultant, Judith Frankfurt and Project Manager, Suzanne Wilson.