The Aussie’s Show Us Why They’re So Bright

I was perusing though the list of referring links to Adaptistration the other week when I can across one from a management school in Australia.  Well that certainly peeked my curiosity so I followed the link back to a course at the Australian Gradate School of Management and what I discovered was a bit of a surprise.

I found a list of online reference material about orchestra management.  Since my list of known Australian friends is limited to an amazing woodworker and a musician that now lives in the states, I knew I wasn’t included due to a personal connection.  So I contacted the course instructor, Professor Robert Marks, to ask about the program.  Here’s what I learned:

“The Australian Graduate School of Management has a special relationship with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra, and after Easter will offer an elective 4-day intensive course to our full-time MBA students, in which they will have the opportunity to consider the management of the SSO from the various perspectives of their MBA study so far: economics, marketing, accounting, organisational behaviour, and data analysis, assisted by the staff and musicians of the SSO, who will brief the students here at the Australian Graduate School of Management and who will host a visit by the students to a rehearsal of the orchestra, at which the students will also be able to talk to the musicians. Working in groups, the students will choose a topic about the orchestra’s management on which to write a report.  The best reports will be amalgamated and a presentation made to the SSO’s management committee by students. This year is the second time we have done this, and the first in which I have been involved (I’m an economist). I’m drawing together relevant web pages with the help of others, as a resource for the students.”

All in all it sounds like a pretty interesting program to me.  I can’t imagine an orchestra here in the U.S. allowing a group of management student’s access to their inner workings in order to write an analytical report.  I think it has some great potential from the aspect that someone from the outside is allowed routine access in order to shed some light on how an orchestra manages itself, and that’s a very good thing. 

I also like how Professor Marks (an economist, not an arts manager mind you) has the students interact with not just the managers, but with the musicians and staffers as well.  It’s obvious that he understands the importance of the role individual players perform (no pun intended) in an orchestral organization. 

On a personal note, I’m especially honored that Adaptistration is listed as relevant reading material.  I also like that Professor Marks went to the trouble to add links for many of the individual web pages and documents that I refer to in several of these articles (many of which are from past editions of SOI’s Harmony). 

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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