Board names ex­ec­u­tive and for­mer dancer at ABT its next pres­i­dent and CEO.

Los Angeles Times - - CALENDAR - By Mike Boehm

Rachel Moore, a for­mer dancer and the long­time top busi­ness ex­ec­u­tive of New York’s Amer­i­can Bal­let Theatre, will be the next pres­i­dent and CEO of the Mu­sic Cen­ter in down­town Los An­ge­les.

Meet­ing Wed­nes­day, the Mu­sic Cen­ter’s board con­firmed Moore as its next pres­i­dent. She re­places Stephen Roun­tree, who re­signed in De­cem­ber af­ter 13 years.

Moore, who’ll start the job Oct. 5, is the first Mu­sic Cen­ter pres­i­dent who has run a ma­jor per­for­mance com­pany, as op­posed to hav­ing man­aged arts venues. She’s also the first who has been a pro­fes­sional per­form­ing artist, hav­ing spent four years dur­ing her early 20s as a mem­ber of ABT’s corps de bal­let.

Af­ter an an­kle in­jury at 24 ended her dream of ris­ing from the bal­let corps to soloist, she re­bounded by study­ing arts man­age­ment.

She takes over a per­form­ing arts hub that’s in need of a re­bound it­self.

“A fully ar­tic­u­lated vi­sion is not some­thing I can put for­ward right now, but my

big-pic­ture idea is that the Mu­sic Cen­ter serve as the heart of down­town, the heart of Los An­ge­les,” Moore said in an in­ter­view from the Metropoli­tan Opera house, ABT’s main home­town venue when not on tour. “The prospect of do­ing this kind of work is very ex­cit­ing to me, and I am hon­ored to be given the chance.”

Lisa Specht, who chairs the Mu­sic Cen­ter’s board, said Moore was its first choice among four fi­nal­ists in­ter­viewed this spring.

“I didn’t think we’d ever find any­body this good,” Specht said. “She re­ally un­der­stands the arts and how to com­mu­ni­cate with peo­ple in the arts. What comes across with Rachel is that she has so much energy and drive. She’s a strate­gist and a cre­ative force. I don’t think you find that com­bi­na­tion any­where. I think we lucked out.”

Moore, 50, is a Cal­i­for­nia na­tive who grew up in Davis, the daugh­ter of an agri­cul­ture pro­fes­sor at UC Davis. She said she prides her­self on be­ing able to “de­mys­tify” the arts for prospec­tive donors from the busi­ness com­mu­nity and vice versa.

“Hav­ing been a per­former as well as an ex­ec­u­tive, I see my­self as a bridge be­tween the artis­tic com­mu­nity and the busi­ness com­mu­nity,” she said. “I speak both lan­guages, and I can do some trans­lat­ing.”

A key chal­lenge for Moore, who has a five-year con­tract at a salary she and Specht de­clined to dis­close, will be speak­ing per­sua­sively to the Los An­ge­les County Board of Su­per­vi­sors. The Mu­sic Cen­ter hopes county gov­ern­ment will fund a large chunk of the cost of long-de­ferred ren­o­va­tions to its old­est venue, the 51-year-old Dorothy Chan­dler Pav­il­ion. The pro­ject is es­ti­mated at $350 mil­lion.

Specht said she hopes that by the time Moore ar­rives, the county will have agreed to pay the lion’s share of another pro­ject that the Mu­sic Cen­ter deems vi­tal to its fu­ture: a $30-mil­lion ren­o­va­tion of its out­door plaza to make it bet­ter suited to per­for­mances and other events and to make it more vis­i­ble and en­tic­ing to passersby on Grand Av­enue. The Mu­sic Cen­ter is ask­ing for the county to pro­vide $25 mil­lion for the plaza, Specht said.

Moore showed re­siliency and an abil­ity to adapt af­ter her an­kle in­jury in 1988 ended a four-year run with ABT. She had be­gun her ca­reer as a pro­fes­sional dancer straight out of high school.

“I was in a cast for three months, and that’s when I took my SATs at a ripe old age,” Moore said of her con­va­les­cence from the in­jury. She tried to come back as a dancer but re­al­ized it would be fu­tile when doc­tors said she would need more surgery.

Moore en­rolled at Brown Univer­sity in Providence, R.I., then earned a master’s de­gree in arts ad­min­is­tra­tion at Columbia Univer­sity. Re­turn­ing to New Eng­land, she spent 10 years head­ing dance ed­u­ca­tion pro­grams in Bos­ton un­til ABT tapped her as ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor. She is on equal foot­ing with ABT’s long­time artis­tic di­rec­tor, Kevin McKen­zie, on the dance com­pany’s or­ga­ni­za­tional chart.

At the Mu­sic Cen­ter, Moore will need to es­tab­lish a fresh start for an or­ga­ni­za­tion that of­ten has been seen as an un­der­achiever, apart from its func­tion as a land­lord ex­pected to keep the four-venue cam­pus in good or­der for the res­i­dent com­pa­nies that put on most of the per­for­mances. The big­gest ten­ants are the Los An­ge­les Phil­har­monic, Los An­ge­les Opera and Cen­ter Theatre Group.

The Mu­sic Cen­ter’s forté as an im­pre­sario in its own right has been dance, for which it has a siz­able en­dow­ment. But its se­ries fea­tur­ing tour­ing dance com­pa­nies typ­i­cally in­volve just a few weeks of per­for­mances over the course of a sea­son. The Mu­sic Cen­ter’s abil­ity to be a vi­brant pre­sen­ter of other per­for­mances, and a lead­ing provider of arts ed­u­ca­tion pro­grams, de­pends largely on its abil­ity to raise money.

Pre­sented with a fundrais­ing op­por­tu­nity last fall, when it was cel­e­brat­ing its 50th an­niver­sary, the Mu­sic Cen­ter fell far short, prompt­ing Carla Sands, the pres­i­dent of its old­est and most ac­tive fund-rais­ing sup­port group, the Blue Rib­bon, to ask pub­licly and point­edly what had gone wrong.

In the wake of its fundrais­ing fail­ure, the Mu­sic Cen­ter laid off 11 peo­ple — in­clud­ing half of its 10-mem­ber pro­gram­ming staff and five of its 16 arts ed­u­ca­tion staffers. Even be­fore the lay­offs, its once vaunted ed­u­ca­tion pro­grams had seen bud­gets slashed by more than half in re­cent years.

The Mu­sic Cen­ter’s depart­ment heads for fundrais­ing and ed­u­ca­tion left re­cently. Moore said hir­ing their re­place­ments is a pri­or­ity that she’ll tackle even be­fore she for­mally be­gins her new job. “I will start work­ing on that be­fore I ar­rive. Those are two very crit­i­cal jobs that need to be filled.”

At ABT, Moore said, she set a $10-mil­lion goal for spe­cial fund-rais­ing in con­junc­tion with the com­pany’s 75th an­niver­sary cel­e­bra­tion in Jan­uary. “We’re well on the way to meet [it],” she said. “Like any good arts or­ga­ni­za­tion, you milk an an­niver­sary as long as you can.” She said the 75th an­niver­sary gala on Jan. 11 net­ted $2.3 mil­lion.

Early in her ten­ure at ABT, Moore had to make dif­fi­cult calls akin to what the Mu­sic Cen­ter re­cently has faced. She in­sti­tuted lay­offs in her first year on the job — ar­riv­ing af­ter the three pre­vi­ous ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tors had lasted a com­bined three years amid bud­get deficits.

“It was hard, but it had to

be done,” she told Vogue mag­a­zine in 2006.

By the end of 2005, a New York Times head­line was hail­ing Moore as “Bal­let Theatre’s Di­rec­tor of Turn­around.” The dance com­pany’s en­dow­ment had risen from $8 mil­lion to $15 mil­lion in the two years since she’d ar­rived — although the boom­ing in­vest­ment mar­kets of the mid-2000s played a role in that.

Like vir­tu­ally all non­profit en­dow­ments, ABT saw its hold­ings crum­ble in the Great Re­ces­sion of 2008 and 2009, its en­dow­ment drop­ping to $13.6 mil­lion. But it re­bounded well — again amid fa­vor­able in­vest­ment mar­kets — reach­ing $18.7 mil­lion by the end of 2014. No­tably, ABT was able to land $2.7 mil­lion in con­tri­bu­tions to the en­dow­ment dur­ing 2009, giv­ing it a jump start to­ward re­cov­ery.

Moore said that ABT’s bud­get was $48.2 mil­lion in 2014, and it came in with a $4.8-mil­lion sur­plus.

The Los An­ge­les County gov­ern­ment pro­vides $25 mil­lion a year to the Mu­sic Cen­ter for main­te­nance, util­i­ties, ush­ers and se­cu­rity at its venues. What­ever else the Mu­sic Cen­ter might want to ac­com­plish de­pends largely on its abil­ity to raise money. The same goes for pro­gram­ming in Grand Park, which the Mu­sic Cen­ter op­er­ates un­der a $5-mil­lion-a-year con­tract with the county.

Con­tri­bu­tions to the Mu­sic Cen­ter have not re­bounded sig­nif­i­cantly since the re­ces­sion, av­er­ag­ing about $10 mil­lion a year since 2009. ABT’s non­profit tax re­turns show av­er­age an­nual do­na­tions of $16.9 mil­lion over the five-year span from 2009 to 2013.

The dance com­pany’s most re­cent avail­able tax re­turn shows that Moore earned $300,654 in salary and ben­e­fits in 2013; as Mu­sic Cen­ter pres­i­dent, Roun­tree earned $865,969 the same year. Howard Sher­man, serv­ing as in­terim pres­i­dent, will re­sume his reg­u­lar job as chief op­er­at­ing of­fi­cer.

Rom­mel De­mano Getty Im­ages

RACHEL MOORE has had suc­cess with ABT’s fi­nances in New York.

Brian van der Brug

SU­SAN GRAHAM per­forms at the Mu­sic Cen­ter’s 50th An­niver­sary Spec­tac­u­lar at the Chan­dler Pav­il­ion.

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