Ruth L. Eliel joined the Colburn Foundation as its executive director in May of 2008 and has led the foundation through the downturn and back. She has been instrumental in changing the culture of the foundation, making it more transparent and accessible to grantees and others alike. She spends significant time “behind the scenes” coaching leaders of start-up and young organizations that may or may not eventually become grantees of the Colburn Foundation. Ruth also works closely with grantees that are facing challenges.
She came from the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, where she had been executive director from 1997 through 2006. In 2007, Ruth shifted her responsibilities and assumed the title of associate executive director at LACO, fulfilling her desire to focus on her passion for fundraising and freeing up some personal time to spend with her husband and family.
During her 9½ years as LACO’s chief executive, the Orchestra’s offerings grew to encompass a three-concert family concert series and three-concert Baroque series, in addition to its regular 14-concert subscription series, education and outreach programs, and numerous special events. After a four-year absence from the recording studio, the Orchestra recorded two major label compact discs under the leadership of music director Jeffrey Kahane. In addition, Ruth led efforts to raise the Orchestra’s visibility, resulting in invitations to perform across the U.S. and abroad, most notably at Carnegie Hall in April 2002 and in five European countries in February/March 2008.
Ruth entered the field of arts management in 1991 as the managing director of the Lewitzky Dance Company, then Los Angeles’ premier modern dance ensemble. Prior to working with the Lewitzky troupe, Ruth spent 14 years in the private sector. Her financial, administrative and organizational experience included working as a management consultant with both Deloitte & Touche and McKinsey & Company. She also did independent consulting for the World Bank, drawing on her nine years as a commercial banker in New York and Hong Kong. She worked for the Chase Manhattan Bank in New York and Hong Kong and later started up and ran MG Finance in Hong Kong.
Ruth has been a faculty member for a number of seminars offered by the League of American Orchestras and has mentored executive directors of orchestras through the League and more recently through the Kennedy Center’s Arts in Crisis program. She has been a guest lecturer on arts management at USC, UCLA, California State University Long Beach, American Jewish University and Loyola Marymount University. She has also served as a grant panelist for the California Community Foundation, the City of Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs, the Los Angeles County Arts Commission, the California Arts Council and the National Endowment for the Arts. She serves on the board of councilors of the USC Thornton School of Music and was a founding member of the board of Arts for LA.
Ruth lives in Los Feliz with her husband, Bill Cooney, and their standard poodle, Taylor.