L.A. Phil’s Youth Orchestra to Get a New, Frank Gehry-Designed Home

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Gustavo Dudamel, center, conducting the Los Angeles Philharmonic in June. The orchestra has big plans for its next season, when it turns 100. Credit Emily Berl for The New York Times

Frank Gehry has already designed one of America’s best-loved concert halls, Walt Disney Concert Hall, for the Los Angeles Philharmonic. Now he is drawing up plans for a new home for the ensemble’s youth orchestra program, YOLA, which plans to double in size.

The new YOLA project was revealed Thursday as part of the Los Angeles Philharmonic’s plans to mark its centennial next season. It will also commission 50 new works, distribute 10,000 free tickets to audiences with limited access to concerts, collaborate with other arts groups and, in a show of its sheer star power, perform at the 2019 Oscars with its popular music director, Gustavo Dudamel.

Its big centennial plans are a sign that the orchestra’s ambitions have not dimmed since it lost its transformational leader, Deborah Borda, to the New York Philharmonic this season. (It has yet to name her successor.) Its board announced that the orchestra’s unusually strong financial position — it earns a significant amount of money by operating the Hollywood Bowl — is poised to get stronger, as it has raised $300 million of a planned $500 million fund-raising campaign.

Raising money for orchestras these days can seem like a Sisyphean task — the mogul David Geffen recently lamented that more donors had not come forward to support the New York Philharmonic after he pledged $100 million toward its new hall project — but it is not only the mighty L.A. Phil that has brought in impressive amounts this year. If last fall was a season of orchestral labor strife, this fall has been a season of eight-figure donations.

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The Walt Disney Concert Hall, designed by Frank Gehry. He will now design a new home for YOLA, the L.A. Phil’s youth orchestra program. Credit Emily Berl for The New York Times

The Cleveland Orchestra, which is celebrating its own centennial this season, announced a $15 million gift this week; the Detroit Symphony Orchestra announced its own $15 million gift last month; the small Albany Symphony recently received a $7 million bequest; and the Kansas City Symphony announced that it had raised $55 million to more than double its endowment.

The rising stock market may be helping orchestras secure some of these gifts, Jesse Rosen, the president and chief executive officer of the League of American Orchestras, said in a telephone interview. “Capacity to give is greater, and people really care — they want to support these organizations,” he said.

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