Doers to Donors: Hilda Ochoa-Brillembourg Helps Transform the Lives of Young Musicians

In the latest episode of Philanthropy Roundtable’s interview series “Doers to Donors,” Roundtable President and CEO Christie Herrera sat down with entrepreneur, author and philanthropist Hilda Ochoa-Brillembourg. Ochoa-Brillembourg is the chairman emeritus and founder of Strategic Investment Group, an independent investment management firm based in Arlington, Virginia. She also is chairman and founder of The Orchestra of the Americas Group, which has helped train talented musicians from around the globe for careers in world-class orchestras.  

This wide-ranging discussion focused on Ochoa-Brillembourg’s journey as a Venezuelan immigrant to the United States, her work managing an international portfolio of global financial assets and her passion for philanthropy, particularly for the arts. Ochoa-Brillembourg, who detailed Venezuela’s economic collapse, also offered a warning for those in this country to not fall prey to the lures of socialism. 

Following are some highlights of this interview, which can be viewed in full here:  

Why Ochoa-Brillembourg Says Managing Assets is a “Noble” Profession  

Ochoa-Brillembourg, a Harvard University graduate, began her career in the United States managing pension funds at the World Bank. But after a decade as the chief investment officer within the bank’s Pension Investment Division, she decided to strike out on her own.  

“I actually established a manner of managing pension assets that turned out to be very successful and uniquely successful,” she said. “I developed a business plan. I spent three years marketing that business plan.”  

That led to the founding of Strategic Investment Group in 1987 and a career she credits with creating financial certainty for those whose assets she managed.  

 “We all have very uncertain futures,” Ochoa-Brillembourg said. “[And] if we have no savings, we have no way to plan our futures.”  

At Strategic Investment Group, she sought to reduce the uncertainty people feel about their finances by managing their money to produce the highest returns.   

“Managing people’s assets is probably one of the most noble professions you can have,” she said.  

“I’ve allowed hospitals to create an incredible cancer ward because of the excess returns we produced.” 

How The Orchestra of the Americas Group is Changing Lives 

Beyond the rewards of her career, Ochoa-Brillembourg has found fulfillment through her philanthropic work, most notably her involvement with The Orchestra of the Americas Group (OA Group). 

The OA Group is a “Grammy-winning symphony orchestra that trains, empowers and presents top-rising talents of the Western Hemisphere and beyond in semi-annual flagship residences around the world.” Recently, it has taken on two additional missions, offering an online music conservatory that bridges the “gap between local and opportunity” and the world’s first MBA in Arts Innovation, co-curated by top universities including Harvard, Stanford, Georgetown and Duke.  

Ochoa-Brillembourg says the conservatory is attracting some of the top performers in the world as teachers, including renowned cellist Yo-Yo Ma, and giving talented musicians, many from disadvantaged backgrounds, the opportunity to make connections that lead to careers with world-class orchestras.   

“We have testimonies of all of our graduates that we have changed their lives. I mean, thousands of testimonies that we have changed their lives and why,” she said.  

One of the most notable success stories is that of Gustavo Dudamel, a Venezuelan conductor currently serving as music and artistic director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic and music director of the Simon Bolivar Symphony Orchestra. 

“We identified him as an extraordinary young conductor in our first tour of the orchestra in 2002,” she said. “We were the first time that he was taken on an international tour and performed all over Latin America and the United States.”  

In addition to the impact of the orchestra on its young musicians, Ochoa-Brillembourg says her philanthropic involvement with the OA Group has also changed her life.  

“It is a transformation,” she said. “It opens up your heart, your mind, your soul, your creativity, your spirit. It gives you a sense of the immense opportunities that life brings.” 

Read more about Ochoa-Brillembourg and the OA Group in our Philanthropy Magazine article, “Beethoven in the Barrio.”  

A “Cautionary Tale” for America 

Ochoa-Brillembourg’s discussion with Herrera also turned to her experience with life in a socialist regime.  

“Caracas is a very special place. It was a very special place to grow up for various reasons,” Ochoa-Brillembourg said. 

Now though, she says the ongoing economic and political crisis in Venezuela has led to the collapse of the private sector and a “band of criminals is ruining the country.” The humanitarian emergency began during the presidency of Hugo Chavez and has since worsened, leaving millions of people without access to needs like basic health care and safe water.  

Ochoa-Brillembourg says it should serve as a warning to Americans to safeguard their democracy. 

“I have never met a socialist who didn’t want to take other people’s money for themselves,” she said. “What’s happened in Venezuela, they have stolen us blind. And it’s what’s happening in China … and what has happened in Russia. Corruption in a socialist regime is extraordinarily more rampant than in a democracy.” 

It concerns her that Americans, particularly on college campuses, have “lost” the freedom to “disagree and … to argue and reach some form of agreement or middle point,” things that are integral to a democracy.  

“But we’ll find our way eventually, I do believe,” she said.  

Learn more about “Doers to Donors” and watch the full interview featuring Hilda Ochoa-Brillembourg here or listen to the podcast on Apple, Google or Spotify. Subscribe to the Roundtable’s YouTube channel to make sure you don’t miss future episodes.  

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