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?