26 Jul 2022


Executive Director, National Symphony Orchestra

The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts  Washington, District of Columbia, United States

The Kennedy Center careers

Job Description

The National Symphony Orchestra welcomes applications and nominations for the position of Executive Director, available in the Fall of 2022.


The National Symphony Orchestra



The National Symphony Orchestra (NSO) is an integral part of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and engages audiences locally, across the country, and around the world.  The Orchestra was founded in 1931 at the height of the Great Depression and for many years performed at the D.A.R. Constitution Hall.  The NSO moved to the Kennedy Center when the Center opened in 1971, and has been in residence with its annual concert season there ever since.  In 1986, the NSO’s relationship with the Kennedy Center was further strengthened when the National Symphony Orchestra became the first artistic affiliate of the Kennedy Center.

The 2021–2022 season marked the National Symphony Orchestra’s 90th anniversary, and Gianandrea Noseda’s fifth season as its music director.  The NSO recently announced that Gianandrea Noseda has extended his contract through the 2026–27 season.   Since assuming the leadership of the NSO, Noseda has welcomed 20 new musicians to the Orchestra and has brought a renewed sense of energy and focus to the NSO.  This in turn has brought wide-ranging recognition from local, national, and international publications, increases in subscription and single ticket sales, and the expansion of the Orchestra’s reach through live-streamed concerts and recordings. The New York Times called the NSO and Noseda’s 2019 Carnegie Hall appearance “spectacular,” while the Washington Post wrote “There’s a certain flair going on at the National Symphony Orchestra,” reinforcing that this artistic partnership continues to gain momentum.

The National Symphony Orchestra regularly participates in events of national and international importance, including official holiday celebrations through its regularly televised appearances on PBS on the lawn of the U.S. Capitol for Capital Concerts, live-streamed performances from the Kennedy Center Concert Hall on Medici.tv, and local radio broadcasts on Classical WETA 90.9FM.

The NSO’s nationally recognized community engagement projects include: NSO In Your Neighborhood, an annual week of performances in schools, churches, community centers, and other unexpected venues; Notes of Honor, which offers free performances for members of the military and their families; and Sound Health, a collaboration with the National Institutes of Health (NIH), its affiliated organizations, and other area hospitals.  Career development opportunities for young musicians include the NSO Youth Fellowship Program, its acclaimed, tuition-free Summer Music Institute, and the new Washington Musical Pathways initiative for high school BIPOC musicians. The NSO has collaborated with hip-hop artists such as Kendrick Lamar and Nas, and recent began a new series of concerts at The Anthem, a popular music club in the Wharf District of Washington D.C.

The National Symphony Orchestra label was launched in 2020 and saw its first release, Dvořák’s Symphony No. 9, debut at number four on the Billboard Traditional Classical Chart. Recordings on the NSO label are released in collaboration with LSO Live and distributed physically in the U.S., U.K., France and Benelux by [PIAS], who also handle worldwide digital distribution. A full list of distributors is available at lsolive.lso.co.uk/pages/distribution

The National Symphony Orchestra is a 98-member ensemble of highly skilled professional musicians.  The Orchestra has a 51-member Board of Directors and receives additional support from 32 National Trustees and an active volunteer association.


Management Structure

The management reporting structure of the National Symphony Orchestra is a dual one. The Executive Director of the NSO reports to the NSO Board of Directors through the Chair and reports to the President of the Kennedy Center.  The Executive Director has the responsibility and the authority to operate within the financial, programmatic, and operational parameters set by the NSO Board and by the Kennedy Center. The Executive Director manages the dedicated staff of the National Symphony and shares management of the Kennedy Center staff specifically assigned to the NSO in areas of marketing, communications, development, finance, and education with the Vice Presidents of those Kennedy Center operating departments.

The Executive Director is a member of the Office of the President of the Kennedy Center, which is comprised of the executive leadership team that reports to the President, Deborah F. Rutter.  Reporting to and working with the President, this team addresses Center-wide concerns and develops operating policies for the nation’s performing arts center and presidential memorial.


The Opportunity

The next Executive Director will have the opportunity to forge a strong partnership with Music Director Gianandrea Noseda and the musicians of the National Symphony Orchestra as they realize the shared vision for an orchestra that is universally recognized as one of America’s finest and most important ensembles.  The Executive Director will work with a dedicated and dynamic Board and a talented staff – all of whom are energized and united in pursuit of shared goals for the NSO’s success in the decade ahead.

The Executive Director will have both the challenge and the opportunity to attract audiences that reflect Washington’s diverse community through creative and innovative approaches to programming and presenting concerts in a post-pandemic environment at the Kennedy Center and at other venues throughout the area.  The Executive Director will guide the NSO’s return to national and international touring.  The ED will lead the expansion of the National Symphony’s worldwide audience with a comprehensive digital strategy that takes advantage of the unique assets available as an affiliate of the Kennedy Center.

As a member of the senior executive leadership team of the Kennedy Center’s President, the Executive Director will have the opportunity to access the significant financial, human, and operational resources available to the NSO as a Kennedy Center affiliate in order to achieve these goals.  The Executive Director will also have the opportunity to participate in Center-wide interdisciplinary artistic initiatives that will expand the NSO’s audience, reach, and impact locally, nationally, and internationally.


The Position

 The Executive Director of the National Symphony Orchestra provides the leadership, inspiration, and strategic direction that enable the NSO to achieve its annual and long-term goals for artistic excellence, financial sustainability, and community engagement, consistent with the mission and goals of the Kennedy Center.  The Executive Director is responsible and accountable for all aspects of the NSO’s portfolio, including artistic administration; operations; education and community programming; fundraising; financial management; and audience development.  The Executive Director is the visible representative, spokesperson, and advocate for the NSO at the Kennedy Center, throughout the community, and to a broader national and international public.

With the Chair of the NSO Board, the Executive Director provides impetus and support to the work of the Board and its committees.  The ED takes a leadership role in annual and endowment fundraising, including donor identification, cultivation, solicitation, and stewardship.   The ED sets and manages a $35 million operating budget.  The Executive Director guides, motivates, and supervises the NSO’s dedicated personnel as well as the Kennedy Center staff who directly support the NSO.  The ED provides guidance and support to those who serve the NSO as volunteers.

Through innovation, creative programming and data-driven marketing initiatives, the Executive Director expands the size and diversity of the NSO’s audience and subscriber base.  The ED works with the NSO marketing team to attract new audiences, enhance the patron experience, increase audience demand, and develop subscriber loyalty.  In addition to bringing concertgoers to the Kennedy Center, the Executive Director seeks out opportunities to reach a wider audience for the NSO by bringing concerts to other venues throughout the greater Washington area.

Working with the President of the Kennedy Center, the Executive Director is a key player in shaping the breadth and depth of the Orchestra’s programming and interdepartmental artistic collaborations throughout the Kennedy Center.  The ED represents the NSO’s interests in Kennedy Center-wide activities and actively seeks opportunities for creative collaborations across the entire Kennedy Center campus.


Candidate Profile

 The next Executive Director of the National Symphony will be a creative and dynamic leader with the demonstrated ability to innovate, collaborate, and inspire both internal and external constituencies.  The ED will be a passionate advocate and articulate public spokesperson for the value and importance of orchestras in general and the National Symphony Orchestra in particular.  The ED will have senior executive management experience, preferably in the not-for-profit performing arts, and a thorough working knowledge of music, artists, and repertoire.   Experience working in a matrix organization is an asset; enthusiasm for the collaboration and teamwork a matrix organization requires is essential.

The next Executive Director will have a demonstrated talent for designing programs that attract diverse audiences and for presenting concerts in traditional and non-traditional formats and venues.   The ED will fully embrace the National Symphony’s commitment to equity, diversity, inclusion, and social justice and will lead efforts to ensure that this commitment is clearly reflected in the Orchestra’s programs, operations, and messaging.

The next Executive Director will have the ability to work effectively with musicians and in a collective bargaining environment will welcome the opportunity to collaborate with these artists in the design of concert and education offerings that build audience appreciation and excitement for the music they play in the Kennedy Center Concert Hall, in venues and non-traditional spaces throughout the greater Washington community, and on tour both domestically and internationally.  The candidate will recognize and be able to identify opportunities to promote the NSO with audiences worldwide by utilizing digital platforms.

The next Executive Director will be willing to devote substantial time and attention to fundraising and will have the demonstrated ability to secure major gifts and funding for special projects such as touring and recording.  Successful experience planning, launching, managing, and achieving goals for endowment campaigns will be considered an asset.

The successful candidate will be an innovator, risk taker, and out-of-the-box thinker.  The candidate will be fearless, persistent, and persuasive while having the emotional maturity to work effectively in an environment that requires teamwork, accommodation, and compromise.   S/he will be a creative problem solver with a collaborative management style that focuses on accomplishment and success.  S/he will have excellent communication skills and the ability to align differing points of view to achieve a shared goal.  The successful candidate will be a person of integrity and high ethical standards with a strong personal commitment to transparency.

The successful candidate will recognize and appreciate the unique opportunities available to the National Symphony Orchestra as a part of The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and with the nation’s capital as its home community.  The candidate will have the grace and gravitas to work effectively in the social and political environment of the nation’s capital and its local neighborhoods.  S/he will welcome the opportunity to become an active participant in the richly diverse international cultural life of the greater Washington community.



Compensation, including a generous benefits package, is competitive and commensurate with qualifications and experience.



 The Kennedy Center is an equal opportunity employer. As an affiliate of the Kennedy Center, the National Symphony Orchestra is committed to equity, diversity, and inclusion in all facets of the organization and welcomes recommendations, nominations, and applications from all qualified candidates regardless of age, race, gender, sexual orientation, disability, religion, or national origin.

Please prepare a cover letter that describes your specific interest in the National Symphony Orchestra and outlines your qualifications for the position.
Please submit with a resume, salary requirements (optional), and contact information for at least three professional references.  Electronic submissions are requested.
All applications will be treated as confidential and references will not be contacted without the candidate’s knowledge and agreement.


Please send materials to:

National Symphony Orchestra – Executive Director

c/o Catherine French Group

2500 Q Street NW, Suite 623

Washington, DC  20007



Please submit material in Adobe PDF or Microsoft Word format



Full-Time Job in Music:
Executive Director, National Symphony Orchestra
The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts
 Washington, District of Columbia, United States

Job Categories: Music. Job Types: Full-Time. Job Tags: executive, executive director, management, Orchestra, and Symphony. States: DC.
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