A Tribute To Frederick Fennell At Carnegie Hall

On Saturday, February 26, 2005 at 9 p.m. the Eastman Wind Ensemble will perform at Carnegie Hall to pay homage to its founder, Frederick Fennell.  Fred founded the landmark ensemble in 1952 and through a series of extensive recordings with Mercury Records brought the ensemble to international acclaim.


It’s fitting to see the memory of a real musical entrepreneur honored at a venue like Carnegie.  Before Fred established the Eastman Wind Ensemble, band music played “second fiddle” to the rapidly expanding American orchestra scene. 


It took a tremendous amount of artistic vision and personal fortitude for Fred to push against the cynics of his day who didn’t believe wind ensemble music was worthy of the same artistic status as orchestras.  But Fred persevered and ended up giving the Eastman School of Music a product they were proud of and wanted to support. 


It’s not much different than much of the philosophical debates raging among orchestras today. They’re concerned about becoming more relevant among their communities and looking for ways to draw people into what it is that they do. 


Nevertheless, more and more institutions are getting so caught up in that debate that they’re forgetting the single most important element is to create a first rate artistic product.  An orchestra can spend all the money they want on marketing endeavors but if the artistic product suffers, even a slightly, you’re selling out the soul of what the ensemble is there to do.  And that’s no way to serve your patrons.


I hope people pack Carnegie Hall for this concert.  It would be a fitting tribute to see a successful live music venue “maximizing its revenue stream” featuring a successful ensemble founded by an individual who kept his artistic compass pointed in the right direction.


You can find out more about the concert by visiting: http://www.rochester.edu/Eastman/news/?id=228

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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