Gretchen Nielsen

Meet Gretchen

From the Top Executive Director Gretchen Nielsen has more than 20 years of experience leading national and international arts initiatives, including launching Youth Orchestra Los Angeles (YOLA) with LA Phil’s Music & Artistic Director Gustavo Dudamel.

As Vice President of Education Initiatives at the LA Phil, Nielsen led, designed, and managed an integrated set of education programs that reached more than 150,000 school-children, teachers, families, young musicians, and concert-goers annually. Most recently, she played a key role in the LA Phil’s development of plans for the Frank Gehry-designed Judith and Thomas L. Beckmen YOLA Center @ Inglewood. This Center will be the first convening center for YOLA, a hub for local and national music learning, and a new community resource.

In 2007, Nielsen was recruited by the LA Phil to launch YOLA, Gustavo Dudamel’s signature program inspired by El Sistema. Since that time, she expanded YOLA locally through community-based partnerships and broadened its reach nationally by offering annual conferences for teachers and leaders. She led the establishment of the first national youth orchestra comprised of students from El Sistema-influenced programs – a three-year project, which culminated in a festival for young musicians aged 12–18 and a celebratory free community concert in Walt Disney Concert Hall in July 2017.

Internationally, Nielsen developed education projects with the Barbican Centre in London, El Sistema in Venezuela, El Sistema Japan in Tokyo, and INBA in Mexico City. Prior to joining the LA Phil, Nielsen worked with orchestras nationwide and major California-based arts and culture institutions during her time as a consultant with Manhattan-based EmcArts.