Some Recent Developments And Debunking Some Spin

Recent Developments
It’s certainly been an interesting week in the orchestra industry.  One very interesting development is the recent announcement that Columbus Symphony Orchestra Board Chair Michael J. McMennamin has relinquished his post as chair of the Board of Trustees.  Details are covered in an article by Eileen Coyne in the August 12th edition of Columbus Business First.

This means that the Columbus symphony now has absolutely no full time leadership: no permanent board chairman, executive director, or music director.  You never know, maybe this is just what they need to get things done?

An Adaptistration reader passed on a link to a fascinating article in the San Antonio Express-News by L.A. Lorek that reports:

“With a nation at war and the economy still recovering, the 20 highest-paid leaders of San Antonio’s nonprofit agencies received an average pay increase, including benefits and salary, of 7 percent in 2002.

The nonprofit executives surveyed make more than triple the $119,580 average annual wage for a chief executive in both private and public industries in the San Antonio metropolitan area for 2002, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. And they earned much more than the average annual wage for all workers of $31,260.”

I think we’re going to see many more stories like this in the future.  It shines a different light on all of those orchestra executives that whine about their salaries which range between 325%675% over base musician wages as not being enough to compete with their for-profit counterparts doesn’t it?

Debunking Some Spin
After a few weeks away from reading the odious “Negotiations Update” pages posted by the Philadelphia Orchestra Association I stopped by to discover that their updates are filled with enough spin to make even a die hard roller coaster fan loose their lunch.

  1. Let’s start with a “Letter” from Martin A. Heckscher (the head of the POA Human Resources committee) the POA published at their “In The News Page”.  The letter goes on to attack a statement made by John Koen, chair of the Philadelphia Musicians Negotiating Committee, in a letter he wrote to the Philadelphia Inquirer. 

    Martin states that John Koen made an inaccurate remark by stating that POA President Joe Kluger recently received a 10% pay raise.  And as a matter of fact, that was inaccurate.  And John corrected that comment in an article in the Philadelphia Inquirer on August 1st, the very same article that corrected several inaccurate and misleading statements made to the Philadelphia inquirer by representatives of the POA.

    He then goes on to mention that John Koen failed to mention that Joe Kluger donated back 10% of his salary to the orchestra.  Well I didn’t forget to mention it in my interview with Joe from July 15th here at Adaptistration.  I also remembered to mention that Joe receives a hefty tax write off and that this give back is only until the orchestra balances its budget.

    Martin also goes on to mention that Joe’s salary is the lowest among his peers in this industry.  What is it with Joe Kluger’s ego that he has to constantly remind everyone about that?  Well then he should at least remember to mention that in the very same July 15th interview Joe also admitted that he thinks he’s compensated fairly. 

    So shut up already about how “little” you’re $285,000 annual salary is Joe!  I’ve never talked to an orchestra manager with such an unbearable martyrdom complex before.  And now he’s even pimping out POA board members to service his ego.

  2. From the “Negotiations Update” Q&A page we have this:

    “The musicians have made it clear that they want to negotiate the new trade agreement in a very traditional collective bargaining style, which (by its nature) is adversarial. We have offered alternative methods to traditional negotiations, but these suggestions have not been pursued by the musicians.”

    And what were those alternative solutions they offered?  Beats me, they didn’t mention anything about them.  As far as I know it could mean that they wanted to join hands around a camp fire and sing Kum Ba Ya or maybe play a game of foosball over contract issues.

    This is just more of the POA vague, smoke filled answers to questions that should have easy, concrete answers.  Negotiations by nature are adversarial, but it isn’t the musicians that are coming out swinging in the press.  Quite the contrary, it’s the POA that released such calamitous statements such as “Our current trade agreement is a roadmap to extinction.”

  3. Once again from the Negotiations Update” Q&A page we have this:

    “While playing in a symphony orchestra requires great skill, the physical requirements are completely different from those of professional athletes. Since each musician usually plays only four rehearsals and four concerts per week – for a total of less than 20 hours a week – there is ample relief time for musicians.”

    I don’t think the POA could have released a more insulting statement about the musicians.  To assume that what it takes to be a world class musician only takes “less than 20 hours a week” is ignorant at best and for someone associated directly with a world class orchestra is an asinine statement to make.  It easily takes more than twice that amount of time of home practice for musicians to be prepared and maintain their skills.

    Musicians such as string players need rotation periods and sufficient down time to reduce repetitive stress injuries.  Before computers, most people have never head of CarpalTunnel or tendonitis; unless you were a musician that is.  By its very nature, playing an instrument like a violin, cello, or even guitar lends itself to developing repetitive stress ailments.

    The Philadelphia Orchestra musicians put out a newsletter that has a good article about this issue, you can find it at:
    You can also do a Google search to find a wealth of information about musicians and repetitive stress injuries

Well that’s it for now, there’s actually more to debunk at the POA website, but I have to slow down now, reading that much spin in one sitting is making me feel a little nauseous. 

But if you notice that the POA website still doesn’t list any of the Adaptistration articles, you might want to take the time to send their hired PR gun an email and complain.

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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