- Category: November/December 2002
League CEO Announces Retirement
American Symphony Orchestra League President and CEO Charles S. Olton announced September 12 that he will retire in June 2003. The decision to retire was a difficult one, Olton said, "because I am deeply committed to the League, to my work, and to my colleagues, but I have reached normal retirement age, and it is time for this wonderful organization to find new leadership."
A search committee has been formed to locate a successor to Olton, who has led the League since 1997. At the time of the announcement, Henry Fogel, chairman of the League Board and president of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, said "Chuck has been an innovative, imaginative agent of change, and that change has been extraordinarily healthy." He noted such developments as the League's relocation to New York City and assemblage of a "superb management team, which will be his legacy long after he leaves us next summer." During Olton's tenure, new programs and enhanced services for American orchestras have developed rapidly. They include the Orchestra Leadership Academy, where more than 1,600 people from 600 orchestras have participated in seminars that enhance institutional strength and build leadership capacity; new partnerships in conductor training with the National Symphony Orchestra, the Aspen Music Festival and School, and the Los Angeles Philharmonic; Music Alive, a composer-in-residence program; a landmark Audience Motivation Research study and a League public advocacy initiative; and the bi-annual National Youth Orchestra Festival. Olton has promoted development of new electronic communication networks at the League, linking orchestra professionals to e-mail news services and discussion groups and offering an enhanced Web presence through symphony.org, newmusicnow.org, and playmusic.org. He has led the creation and development of the American Orchestra Foundation, which brings major donors into a close relationship with the programs they support and has spurred a resurgence in contributed revenue to the League.
Prior to joining the League, Olton was dean of Parsons School of Design in New York. He has also served as vice president for academic affairs and dean of the faculty at Barnard College, Columbia University. He has written extensively on early American social and political history, and lectured widely on 18th-century American art history and musicology.