I Go To The Symphony For Their Executive Director?

I have to take a moment and rant about something. When did it become popular to have a biography or message from the orchestra executive director? Not just a listing in a staff directory, but a dedicated biography.  I went to the following orchestra web sites: Richmond Symphony, Rockford Symphony, Green Bay Symphony, and Chattanooga Symphony. They all have biographies about their executive directors but absolutely no information about any of the orchestra musicians (with the exception of the Rockford Symphony, which provides a biography of the concertmaster).

Talk about missing the point.

Why would they take the time to market information about the executive director before any of the musicians? How many of us go to the symphony to listen to the executive director? I don’t recall ever reading a music critic talk about the executive director when reviewing an orchestra’s performance of Beethoven’s 7th.  Did I miss something?

I find it more than a little self-serving on the part of these executive directors to feel they are more important than the musicians with regard to their orchestra’s public image.  Does your local orchestra have biographies about the players? How about the management?  Take the time to visit your local orchestra web site.  See if they provide biographical information about the players and let them know how you feel.

About Drew McManus

"I hear that every time you show up to work with an orchestra, people get fired." Those were the first words out of an executive's mouth after her board chair introduced us. That executive is now a dear colleague and friend but the day that consulting contract began with her orchestra, she was convinced I was a hatchet-man brought in by the board to clean house.

I understand where the trepidation comes from as a great deal of my consulting and technology provider work for arts organizations involves due diligence, separating fact from fiction, interpreting spin, as well as performance review and oversight. So yes, sometimes that work results in one or two individuals "aggressively embracing career change" but far more often than not, it reinforces and clarifies exactly what works and why.

In short, it doesn't matter if you know where all the bodies are buried if you can't keep your own clients out of the ground, and I'm fortunate enough to say that for more than 15 years, I've done exactly that for groups of all budget size from Qatar to Kathmandu.

For fun, I write a daily blog about the orchestra business, provide a platform for arts insiders to speak their mind, keep track of what people in this business get paid, help write a satirical cartoon about orchestra life, hack the arts, and love a good coffee drink.

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