Oregon Symphony names Isaac Thompson as next president and CEO

By Prakruti Bhatt (OPB)
Aug. 3, 2023 10:16 p.m.

Thompson, who was the managing director of the New York Philharmonic, will replace Scott Showalter in October

Isaac Thompson on Tuesday was named the Oregon Symphony's next president and CEO.

Isaac Thompson on Tuesday was named the Oregon Symphony's next president and CEO.

Courtesy of Oregon Symphony

The Oregon Symphony on Tuesday named Isaac Thompson as the next president and CEO.


Thompson will replace Scott Showalter on Oct. 2.

Showalter — who had announced that he would be stepping down as president and CEO in March — will take on a new role as executive advisor to the president and board.

Prior to Thompson’s appointment, the symphony’s search committee screened over 40 qualified candidates across the globe and considered feedback from music director David Danzmayr, board members, musicians and senior staff.

Thompson was previously the managing director at the New York Philharmonic, where he played an integral role in forming the Philharmonics’ inaugural season at the recently-renovated David Geffen Hall. He has also served as director of artistic administration for the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra and the Cincinnati May Festival, as well as the vice president of artistic planning for the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra.


“We are thrilled to have Isaac Thompson join the Oregon Symphony as the new President and CEO,” board chair Dan Drinkward said in a press statement. “Isaac was the clear choice to ensure the Oregon Symphony’s dedication to artistic excellence, pursuit of community engagement, and commitment to financial stability into the future.”

Thompson said his near future includes a lot of listening.

“It’s going to be a lot of conversations with the community at large about what the Oregon Symphony means to the greater Portland area and to Oregon. And what the Oregon Symphony can do moving into the future,” he said. “I view challenges as opportunities. I think this is a huge moment of opportunity for orchestras to take a look at themselves, to take a look at the communities they serve, at the audience, and to really think bold and creatively about what the future looks like.”

He said he views his role as being an advocate for the symphony on all fronts.

“I think that an orchestra has the potential and the responsibility to be an absolute critical part of, not only the cultural fabric of a community, but also the social fabric of that community,” Thompson explained.

Thompson previously served as an executive lead on the Philharmonic’s diversity, equity, and inclusion work. And at the Oregon Symphony, he hopes to get to the crux of the symphony’s DEI mission.

“At the Oregon Symphony, what I’m excited about is to dive into these conversations with the board, with the musicians, with the staff, to understand the cultural as-is state of the symphony … and to start talking about what does culture mean here at the Oregon Symphony? How can we work together to really define what our values are going to be moving forward?”

The Oregon Symphony will kick off its 2023-24 season on Sept. 10 with a performance from critically-acclaimed cellist Yo-Yo Ma. The upcoming season will also include Mahler’s First Symphony and Mozart’s Sinfonia Concertante among many more.