Words To Live By

Recently, I wrote about a wonderful book entitled Joe Maddy of Interlochen. During my recent re-reading, I took the time to find a few good excerpts that I’ll share with everyone from time to time. For those of you unfamiliar with Interlochen, it is the largest summer arts education program in the world. Every professional orchestra across the U.S. has at least a few alumni if not dozens among its members.

Founded in 1928 by Joseph Maddy, he started the organization from nothing but a personal loan and led it through the Great Depression all the while transforming it into the premier arts education institution in the world.

Joe Maddy was an honest-to-god cultural Henry Ford. He revolutionized the way arts institutions function and developed his own philosophy about arts management. The first excerpt I would like to share summarizes his attitude toward hiring teachers for the summer program.

Even though Joe Maddy only possessed a ninth grade education, he had four honorary doctorates. But it wasn’t until toward the end of his life before he would hire anyone with a doctorate for the Interlochen faculty. He always said “If they’ve spent all that time getting degrees, they haven’t had time to learn how to teach.” He preferred professional musicians as teachers. Joe always enjoyed reminding others, “I didn’t get educated. Therefore, I don’t have to quote any psychologists or follow anyone’s lead but my own.”

Today’s orchestra leaders could all learn a lesson here. Once, there was a time when the great American cultural empire wasn’t yet established. It took vision, dedication, and self sacrifice by individuals like Joe Maddy to put the art and the artists before themselves in order to build what we have today. Although we’ve met one such individual in these articles so far, they still seem like an endangered species. And you certainly don’t find leaders like this coming out of Arts Education Programs and Management Fellowships!

Ponder this: If Joe Maddy were at the beginning of his career today and applied for an executive leadership position at a major orchestra, do you think he would get the job?

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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1 thought on “Words To Live By”

  1. Thanks for posting this! I am not only an interlochen arts camp graduate, but I am also doing a research project on Joe Maddy (we are researching not very well known world heros) and i have found your book an amazing source for my paper!
    Thank you,

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