DHR Lands New CEO for New Jersey Symphony Orchestra

July 19, 2016 – Executive search firm DHR International has recruited Gabriel van Aalst as president and chief executive officer of the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra (NJSO). James Abruzzo, managing partner of DHR’s global non-profit practice, led the search.

Mr. van Aalst has performed in the Sydney Youth Orchestra (violin) from 2001 to 2006 and served on the board of that organization from 2004 to 2008. In 2004, he joined a leading touring production company, where he managed over 250 productions while also seeking out funding from government grants and corporate sponsorship.

In 2008, he became orchestra manager of the Australian Chamber Orchestra, that country’s national touring orchestra. In addition to producing over 100 performances a year, touring Australia, Europe, Asia and the U.S., Mr. van Aalst managed the creation of two new festivals.


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He relocated to London where he joined The Academy of St. Martin in the Fields. Originally orchestra manager, he was soon promoted to co-CEO and then CEO where he turned around the organization’s finances through a combination of touring income, creative programming and fundraising.

DHR’s global non-profit sector search practice provides senior level executive search services to a growing client roster that now includes cultural organizations, international development and social service organizations, zoos and aquariums, gardens and arboreta, economic development organizations and trade association, foundations and educational organizations.

The placement of Mr. van Aalst is the fourth important arts CEO placed in New Jersey arts organizations by Mr. Abruzzo and DHR, according to a search through Hunt Scanlon Media archives. Also recruited to CEO positions are Adam Philipson, president and CEO of the Count Basie Theatre and the Count Basie Theatre Foundation; Steven Kern, president and director of the Newark Museum; and John Schreiber, president and CEO of the New Jersey Performing Arts Center.

Named “a vital, artistically significant musical organization” by The Wall Street Journal, the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra embodies that vitality through its statewide presence and critically acclaimed performances, education partnerships and unparalleled access to music and the Orchestra’s superb musicians. Under the leadership of music director Jacques Lacombe, the NJSO presents classical, pops and family programs, as well as outdoor summer concerts and special events.

Other music organizations have been turning to executive search firms in recent months to find new leaders. Here’s a look at just a few:

Contributed by Dale M. Zupsansky, Managing Editor, Hunt Scanlon Media

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