Theme And Variations In Atlanta

You have to love the internet; if you took the time to surf around the local Atlanta television and newspaper outlets yesterday, you were treated to a variety of articles and video features about the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra’s new concert hall.

The NBC affiliate, WXIA had a short video segment about the hall as well as an online computer generated 3D walk around the new hall which has been dubbed “Feather” by the building’s architect, Santiago Calatrava (it’s worth the time to go give it a look).

In case his name doesn’t ring a bell, he’s the individual responsible for designing the Auditorio de Tenerife, a stunning concert hall in the Canary Islands.  As a matter of fact, the new concert destined for Atlanta looks like a bigger, hipper variation on the original Spanish theme.

You can find a bunch of other information and a number of slick 3D renderings of the hall at: http://www.atlantasymphonycenter.org/index.htm

I have no doubt that so long as the hall sounds as good as it looks it will become a distinctive landmark that will become synonymous with “Atlanta”.

Another striking feature of the concert hall is the price tag: $300 million.  In an article by Pierre Ruhe in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution the author remarked on how the success of Seattle Symphony’s Benaroya Hall project helped that orchestra achieve substantial artistic and financial growth in the past several years.

If Atlanta enjoys the same amount of growth as Seattle did after Benaroya Hall opened, that would put them in the same budget league as Chicago and Las Angeles.

Another orchestra currently engaged with a concert hall project used a similar approach by looking at Seattle as an example.  As a result, they garnered support among a broad constituency of government and private support; the Nashville Symphony.  So far their $120 million project is under budget and ahead of schedule.

If all goes well in Atlanta, they’ll have similar good news in the years to come.

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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