Executive Director Paul Helfrich to step down in September

The Orlando Philharmonic Orchestra announces that Paul Helfrich has resigned from his position as Executive Director of the Orlando Philharmonic Orchestra, effective September 15, 2023.

Helfrich joined the Philharmonic in February 2020 after serving as executive director of orchestras in Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Ohio with an impressive arts administration tenure spanning 37 years (30 as an executive director) in June 2023. His excellence in leadership during turbulent times in Orlando was demonstrated as the Philharmonic weathered the COVID-19 pandemic just a month into his time in the position. The orchestra successfully completed seasons under social distancing, closed venues, and even outdoor concerts during the 2020-2021 and 2021-2022 Seasons.

“It has been an honor to serve as OPO’s Executive Director during a challenging and eventful time,” Helfrich said. “I am very proud, with the support of an outstanding team, to have led OPO through the pandemic and to exciting new opportunities in its new home in Steinmetz Hall. 

“I’m grateful to Melody Lynch, to Mary Palmer, and to Eric Jacobsen, for bringing me to Orlando and for being my steadfast partners throughout my time here. I’m especially thankful for the work of an outstanding staff team, some of the best people I’ve known in my entire career. I will always fondly remember my time here in Orlando and the many friends I have made, and of course, the palm trees and warm weather, perhaps the hardest thing for me to give up!” 

While in Orlando, Helfrich oversaw two successful Collective Bargaining Agreement negotiations for the Orlando Philharmonic musicians, a nationally televised collaboration with Walt Disney World for their 50th Anniversary Celebration, and the growth of partnerships with numerous organizations including Opera Orlando and Orlando Ballet. Working with Orlando City Soccer, the OPO was the country’s first professional orchestra to perform in a professional soccer stadium.

“We are grateful to Paul for his years of leadership with the OPO. He is a steadfast champion for the arts and has elevated the OPO with firm guidance and a strong passion for the work the orchestra does in the Central Florida community,” said Melody Lynch, president of the Board of Directors.

A career highlight for Helfrich is the quality and diversity of programming presented by the Orlando Philharmonic with Music Director Eric Jacobsen. The Orlando Philharmonic Orchestra under Helfrich’s tenure successfully moved into the new Steinmetz Hall at the Dr. Phillips Center in March of 2022 to present its Classics and Pops Series in the hall.

“Working with Paul the past several years has been nothing short of a dream!, said Music Director Eric Jacobsen. “His strong leadership, paired with his artistic knowledge, energy and enthusiasm, has been such a huge influence to me personally, the staff, the musicians, and the whole community. While we will miss him so much, we are so excited for his next chapter ahead and will be forever grateful for the impact he had on all of us here at the OPO.”

The Orlando Philharmonic Orchestra serves as Central Florida’s only professional orchestra and is positioned for a trajectory of tremendous growth, under the direction of Music Director Eric Jacobsen. Jacobsen has a contract extension with the Orlando Philharmonic Orchestra through the 2024-2025 Season. The Philharmonic recently announced the 2023-2024 Season, its second at Steinmetz Hall at Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts.

“The Philharmonic thanks Paul for his service not only to the organization but also to the entire  community. We wish Paul and his family the best in the future,” said Lynch. Helfrich and his family will be moving to North Carolina, where his wife Jessica has recently been appointed to a full-time position as Associate Concertmaster with the North Carolina Symphony Orchestra. Helfrich will remain in his position until Friday, September 15, 2023.

“The OPO will continue to present music of the highest quality here in Orlando while maintaining a record of fiscal stewardship,” said Lynch.

The Board of Directors, Musicians, Staff and Volunteers will continue to focus on creating growth and innovation through music and engaging our Central Florida community with the excellence of the Orlando Philharmonic Orchestra.

A search committee is in formation and committed to hiring the next full-time Executive Director.

The mission of the Orlando Philharmonic Orchestra is to provide excellence and innovation in orchestral music performance and education that serves and engages the community.