PORTLAND – Ari Solotoff, who helped lead the Portland Symphony Orchestra out of a financial morass, will leave Portland for an administrative position with The Philadelphia Orchestra.

Solotoff, 29, has been executive director of the PSO for four seasons. He will stay in Portland through the end of the current performance season, in early May.

In Philadelphia, he will be the chief of staff and director of planning, a position created by the orchestra’s new president and CEO, Allison Vulgamore. “She called me and said, ‘We have this opportunity. Would you be open to it?’ It was neither solicited nor expected on my part,” Solotoff said Tuesday.

Solotoff is considered one of the top young administrators in the orchestra world. In tandem with the charismatic Music Director Robert Moody, he has helped the orchestra achieve a higher level of artistic excellence while engaging in long-term strategic planning.

He has guided the orchestra through a period of financial uncertainty, producing the orchestra’s first balanced budget in several years.

Gordon Gayer, president of the orchestra’s board of trustees, said a national search for Solotoff’s replacement will begin immediately. It is likely, he said, that an interim executive director will be appointed while the search continues.

Solotoff, his staff and the PSO board are in the final stages of preparing the budget for the fiscal year that begins Aug. 1. Gayer will present the budget to the board in May, in hopes of having it approved in June.

“I am so grateful that Ari is leaving a great staff behind, and I feel that we are in good shape. If this had to happen, this is probably the best time of the year for him to go,” Gayer said.

The orchestra is now operating with a $2.4 million budget, down from more than $3 million just a few years ago. Solotoff helped shepherd the orchestra through a series of budget cuts and slight reductions in staffing, salaries and performances, in an attempt to control costs. He also led the orchestra through a self-analysis.

Solotoff was not with the PSO when it began its search for a new artistic director, but he was involved in hiring Moody. He also helped negotiate a contract with musicians, and recently signed Moody to a long-term extension.

When he was hired, Solotoff outlined a five-year plan. He achieved most of his goals in four years, he said.

His most important accomplishment was securing artistic leadership, he said. That included the hiring of Moody and the recruitment of Joseph Silverstein, who led the orchestra during a transitional year before Moody arrived.

Solotoff said his second important accomplishment was building an administrative team that bought into his management style and philosophy, which included teamwork to identify and solve problems.

With those pieces in place, he was in a better position to confront the orchestra’s financial realities. For many years, Solotoff said, the orchestra operated with unrealistic financial goals. With a smaller budget, it is in a better position to move forward with long-term planning, he said.

Solotoff will begin his new job May 17. He will assist The Philadelphia Orchestra’s president and CEO with strategic planning, and will be responsible for coordinating the central office, as well as oversight of items related to institutional planning, the orchestra’s board and other areas.

The Philadelphia Orchestra, founded in 1900, is considered one of the top half-dozen orchestras in the country. Its chief conductor is Charles Dutoit.

Before coming to Portland, Solotoff worked for the Louisville Orchestra and as executive director of the Pensacola (Fla.) Symphony. He is a 2003 graduate of the Orchestra Management Fellowship Program of the League of American Orchestras.

 

Staff Writer Bob Keyes can be contacted at 791-6457 or at: [email protected]