University of Southern California

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David Bohnett Class of '78

David Bohnett  Class of '78

Orchestrating Change

David Bohnett’s social activism is legendary, including his support of new youth orchestras in Los Angeles.

When incoming LA Phil music director Gustavo Dudamel conducted his groundbreaking first concert at the Hollywood Bowl in September, David Bohnett ’78, new chair of the LA Phil board, experienced a welter of emotions.

He was thrilled at the overflow audience of all ages and ethnicities - many of them first-time Philharmonic attendees.

But that was before this business administration major who was fascinated by computers graduated and went on to found the pioneering Internet portal and social media site GeoCities.com. It was before he started the private equity firm Baroda Ventures and became CEO of OVGuide.com, the world’s most comprehensive video search site. And it was before he became an influential philanthropist whose 10-year-old David Bohnett Foundation funds social activism by supporting LGBT programs, voting rights, handgun safety, animal rights, arts and education programs.

Bohnett, who is low-key and personable, does not come across as the major player he is in Southern California. “Don’t let the unassuming demeanor fool you,” stated a 2009 profile in the Los Angeles Times Magazine. “He has an unwavering determination to right wrongs, a very big heart and a fierce intelligence.”

About his role as board chairman for the LA Phil, it is not exaggerating to say that Bohnett is shaping a new era for classical and contemporary music in Los Angeles. Being involved in the recruiting and hiring of Dudamel, who has energized the city and the global music world, is one thing. But helping create a network of youth orchestras modeled on El Sistema, the Venezuelan music education system from which Dudamel emerged, has the potential for extraordinary social and cultural change in the city.

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