Scott Showalter became president and chief executive officer of the Oregon Symphony in July 2014. The 76 full-time musicians of the Symphony perform for over 250,000 people each year at Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall in Portland, Smith Auditorium in Salem, and beyond. Its $22M budget makes the Oregon Symphony one of the largest arts organizations in the Pacific Northwest.
Showalter has achieved record ticket sales and donations, increasing the Symphony budget by 50%, the greatest growth among American orchestras during this time. While balancing the annual budget and incurring no debt, Showalter has expanded the classical series and made investments in creative programming, Recent seasons have included: SoundSights, which included an artisan glass installation for Bartók’s Bluebeard’s Castle, Rose Bond’s original video art paired with Messiaen’s Turangalîla, and Michael Curry’s original puppetry bringing to life Stravinsky’s Persephone; SoundStories, a series of imaginative, collaborative productions that animate orchestral works and expand the power of musical storytelling; and Sounds of Home, a series that debuted original music and multi-media productions that illuminated themes of immigration, homelessness, and the environment.
The Symphony has expanded its commissioning, recordings, and digital programs under Showalter as well. All Classical Portland frequently broadcasts Oregon Symphony concerts, several of which are syndicated via American Public Media to tens of millions of households. The original virtual educational series Symphony Storytime, in English and Spanish, is viewed by families and in classrooms around the world; the acclaimed digital series Essential Sounds honors essential workers during the COVID-19 pandemic. During Showalter’s tenure, the Oregon Symphony has released several CDs, two of which have earned Grammy nominations.
With frequent classical guest artists like Yo-Yo Ma, Renee Fleming, Itzhak Perlman and Joshua Bell, the Symphony also has broadened its repertoire. Recent specials and presentations have included Leslie Odom, Jr., Lila Downs, Lily Tomlin, Boyz II Men, Il Divo, Wynton Marsalis, Tony Bennett, and Shanghai Acrobats. The orchestra also performs live soundtracks along with screened video games like The Legend of Zelda and blockbuster movies like Harry Potter, Jurassic Park, and La La Land.
Beyond the stage, Showalter has extended the Symphony’s Education and Community Engagement activities. Every year, hundreds of programs in schools, libraries, neighborhoods, correctional facilities, sports venues, and retirement homes reach tens of thousands of children and adults. Under a grant from the Oregon Community Foundation, Oregon Symphony musicians assist public school teachers to develop arts curricula; in partnership with Carnegie Hall and Portland Homeless Family Solutions, the Oregon Symphony produces the Lullaby Project, supporting the well-being of mothers and children facing housing insecurity; and, in collaboration with the Intel Corporation, the Symphony helps to develop musical applications for computer chip technology.
Before moving to Portland, Showalter worked as vice president of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, associate vice president of the University of Chicago, and associate dean of Stanford Law School. A classically trained pianist, Showalter holds an undergraduate degree from Stanford University and an MBA from the University of California, Los Angeles. He additionally serves on the board of Northwest Academy, an arts-focused college preparatory school in downtown Portland, Oregon.