Rita Shapiro is a long-time Washingtonian with a significant background in nonprofit management and the arts. Her career has included tenures at several renowned arts institutions, where she held various positions leading to more than 15 years of executive leadership at the National Symphony Orchestra. She has guided staff and board teams through strategic and creative planning processes and has mentored young artists throughout her career. Rita has previously held Interim Executive Director positions with the Catalogue for Philanthropy: Greater Washington, as well as The Washington Chorus. She is also a past president of the DC chapter of the International Women’s Forum, a networking organization of women executives from diverse professional backgrounds. 

From 2001 to 2016 Rita Shapiro served as Executive Director of the National Symphony Orchestra at the John F. Kennedy Center in Washington, DC.  Under her leadership the National Symphony engaged the world’s most renowned guest artists and conductors, focused on showcasing new talent and commissioned major new orchestral works.  During her tenure the NSO received critical acclaim for its diverse programming and cross-genre collaborations with such artists as Kendrick Lamar, Nas, Zakir Hussain, Ben Folds and Trey Anastasio. The orchestra also undertook nine US state-wide residencies and five international tours to Europe, Asia, Trinidad and the Americas, and Oman. The NSO created multiple TV and radio projects, webcasts and recordings and participated in the annual Capitol Concert broadcasts on PBS.  Shapiro also developed several signature community initiatives, including the NSO’s “In Your Neighborhood” program, taking musicians to a variety of non-traditional performing venues across the District; an ongoing partnership with THEARC in Anacostia; the Sound Health Program at the National Institutes of Health as well as seven area hospitals; and partnerships with military organizations including the USO. 

Shapiro’s career also includes 12 years at The Cleveland Orchestra, where she served as Operations Manager, as well as fundraising positions at The Cleveland Play House and the Boston Symphony Orchestra. 

Rita Shapiro holds Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Vocal Performance from Boston University. She has served as a grants panelist for the NEA, Opera America, and the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities.  Her volunteer activities include the Women’s Advisory Board of the Girl Scout Council of the Nation’s Capital; the shared reading program for students Everybody Wins DC;  the Washington English Center; and as a past member of the Advisory Board of the DC Youth Orchestra.

You can reach Rita via email at executivedirector@abramsonfoundation.org or by phone at (202) 470-5425.