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Allison Vulgamore Positions the Philadelphia Orchestra for Artistic and Financial Success, Announces She Will Depart

June 20, 2017


The pillars of a next strategic plan in place, Vulgamore says the time is right for new leadership
to carry the Orchestra through its next chapter

(Philadelphia, June 20, 2017, 3 PM)—Allison Vulgamore, president and chief executive officer of the Philadelphia Orchestra Association has announced she will conclude her tenure with the organization when her contract ends in December 2017. When she took the helm in 2010, the Orchestra was mired in deep financial and managerial problems. Over her eight years, Vulgamore balanced artistic excellence with fiscal stability, implementing progressive measures that put the Orchestra on more solid footing artistically and financially.

An innovative solution seeker and change agent, Vulgamore brought greater stability and hope to one of the world’s most storied cultural institutions during her distinguished tenure. She worked with the board to chart a course of financial reorganization and renewal, and she developed a viable plan to increase attendance, transform the Orchestra’s relationship with its audience, and extend its stage into Philadelphia’s communities.

Today, the Orchestra enjoys far greater financial stability than it did prior to her arrival. Between FY11 and FY16, it has grown earned revenue by 28%. The Orchestra has raised more than $200 million during her tenure. A surge last season in ticket sales allowed the Orchestra to close the 2015-16 season with revenues just over $12 million – a 45% increase over the revenues in Vulgamore’s first full season and the highest earned income for the Orchestra in more than a decade. The Orchestra has no debt, its operating budget has been balanced each of her seven years, and it has in place an achievable strategic and financial plan for the next five years.

Vulgamore’s tenure with the Philadelphia Orchestra is distinguished by her successful recruitment of Yannick Nézet-Séguin as music director within her first six months. Recently, Vulgamore ensured his musical leadership would remain in place for the next decade in Philadelphia, as it was simultaneously announced that Nézet-Séguin would become the next Music Director of the Metropolitan Opera.

His diverse repertoire, deep relationship with the musicians, and connection to the community have taken the Philadelphia Orchestra to new musical heights at home in the Kimmel Center, in Philadelphia’s neighborhoods and in engaging performances throughout Europe and Asia.

With Nézet-Séguin’s musical leadership solidified, a strong senior management team recruited and in place, the 2017-2018 season set, and the pillars of a strategic plan approved, Vulgamore determined this is the logical time to usher in new leadership. Her thoughtfully timed decision enables new leaders to achieve the Orchestra’s mission in its next chapter, and allows for a smooth transition in the search for her successor.

“Serving Philadelphia through the work of its great Orchestra has been a joy for me personally. I am grateful for the collective effort and progress made these last eight years, onstage in exceptional performances and off stage in service to our community at home, and internationally,” Vulgamore said. “I wish for continuing generations of Philadelphians to embrace this renewed and storied institution so important to Philadelphia's character.”

Orchestra Board Chairman Richard B. Worley credits Vulgamore’s transformational leadership skills for navigating a dramatically changing environment and cultural landscape to position the organization for success.

“Allison has been my partner for the last eight years. The Orchestra is indebted to her and so am I,” he said. “She made some courageous decisions that other people couldn’t and she cleared a path for the Orchestra’s renewal.”

Comcast Senior Executive Vice President David L. Cohen called Vulgamore an “impressive leader” for her business acumen and innovative thinking.

“Allison was the CEO of the Orchestra in the most difficult time in its history and she is leaving the Orchestra in a much better place than when she arrived,” he said.

During her eight years with the orchestra, Vulgamore implemented fiscal efforts and strategic initiatives that have repositioned the Orchestra locally, nationally and globally. They include:

  • In partnership with Nézet-Séguin, she developed newly dramatic programing,launching a Stokowski Festival that returned the Orchestra to the beloved Academy of Music, pulling Broadway talent and Mummers to perform in Bernstein’s MASS, and developing new commissions like Hannibal Lokumbe’s groundbreaking and inclusive One Land, One River, One People.

  • The Orchestra is reaching more people outside Verizon Hall, creating access to music for Philadelphians of all ages and experience levels.

    • The HEAR (Health, Education, Access, and Research) initiative connects musicians and music with neighbors and neighborhoods. Through a portfolio of initiatives, HEAR promotes wellness, champions music education, eliminates barriers to accessing the Orchestra, and maximizes its impact through research, all throughout the Philadelphia region

    • During her eight years, the Orchestra returned to radio - WRTI broadcasts weekly concerts in Philadelphia and SiriusXM airs concerts nationally three times a week

    • A new online digital portal, “Orchestra on Demand” was launched, offering unprecedented access to the Orchestra’s performances

    • The Orchestra developed learning partnerships with Carnegie Hall, the School District of Philadelphia, Broad Street Ministry, Temple University, and others

  • Created and launched in 2011, the Orchestra’s tour residency program continues its commitment to cultural diplomacy and exchange with activities in Asia. This year, it celebrates the first year of its second five-year partnerships with China’s National Centre for the Performing Arts, the Shanghai Oriental Art Center, and the Shanghai Media Group Performing Arts Division

  • The Orchestra experienced once-in-a-lifetime opportunities under Vulgamore’s leadership, including performing for Pope Francis and a global audience at Philadelphia’s Festival of Families, as well as a performance for the U.N. General Assembly

  • The Orchestra is cultivating audiences of tomorrow by:
    • Instituting the Young Friends of the Philadelphia Orchestra program (ages 21-40), now 3,400 members strong. Six years ago, millennials constituted nine percent of the Orchestra’s audience; today they make up 16% of audiences
    • EZseatU membership for college students has brought over 10,000 students to see unlimited Philadelphia Orchestra concerts all season for just $25
    • Designing the LiveNote interactive app in partnership with Drexel University to provide concertgoers with real-time concert notes for the music they hear
    • The Orchestra has refocused its efforts to develop patron relationships earlier and develop them stronger and longer:
      • Increased funding support allows the Orchestra to encourage patron loyalty and an expanding young friends group
      • A recent survey measuring audience attitude and experience has yielded a net promoter score of 93%
      • Between FY11 and FY16, the Orchestra’s audience has grown by 17 percent

Music Director Yannick Nézet-Séguin lauded Vulgamore’s accomplishments and dedication to the Orchestra and its many audiences. Yannick credits her for reigniting a passion for the organization that had dimmed over the years.

"Allison has been my partner since the day I arrived in Philadelphia. I am so grateful for her bringing me to this Orchestra that I love, and for the creative programs we have curated on our stage together, as well as our shared passion for the new HEAR community service program I care deeply about,” Nézet-Séguin said. “Her leadership, determination, and spirit of innovation have touched us all. Her time here will have a lasting impact on our continuing work for our audiences everywhere. Personally, I will miss her."

U.S. Senator Bob Casey praised Vulgamore’s work using the common language of music to foster cross-cultural understanding.

“During Allison’s tenure as CEO, the Philadelphia Orchestra has flourished and become a cultural ambassador for the City of Philadelphia and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania to the world,” Casey said. “I am grateful for her leadership of this important Philadelphia institution and wish her well.”

Drexel President John A. Fry, who marked the opening of the Drexel-SARI Center in Shanghai in 2012 with a celebration including a performance by musicians of the Philadelphia Orchestra, added, "I have gotten to see Allison in action many times and I have tremendous respect for her. She is a strong leader and change agent, and has a "can do" attitude. She is resilient and has great, positive energy. I am a big fan.”

Vulgamore began her career with the Philadelphia Orchestra following her graduation from the inaugural class of the American Symphony Orchestra League’s Orchestra Management Fellowship Program. She served in leadership roles with the New York Philharmonic and the National Symphony Orchestra. She spent 17 years as president and chief executive officer of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra before returning to Philadelphia as the Orchestra’s president and chief executive officer. Of the 37 years she has dedicated to serving orchestras since leaving Oberlin Conservatory, the last 25 have been in the roles of president and chief executive officer.


Patricia O’Kelly
phone: 202.999.9806
e-mail: pokelly@philorch.org