Some Feedback On Management Philosophy

In response to yesterday’s article about managers who allow a “musicians are only part time employees” philosophy to become an obstacle to growth in the business, there have been a few new public examinations of the issue.

One such observation comes from Patricia Mitchell at oboeinsight wrote what I think is one of the most eloquent accounts of what being a musician  who performs in ROPA ensembles is really all about.

Patricia actually wrote two entries, the first one is a brief piece which establishes the issue then a second, longer essay which hits the nail right on the head (she modestly calls it rambling, but it’s far more persuasive than that).  Every current or potential orchestra manager out there should take the time to read Patricia’s reflections on what it is to be a musician in a smaller budget ensemble. 

One of the largest problems in this business is that managers really have no idea what it is to be a musician and musicians don’t understand what managers really do all day.  For the players, they learn about managers at one point or another in their career whether they want to or not.  Unfortunately, it’s easier for managers to simply turn a blind eye to everything the musicians in their ensemble do outside of the concert hall.

What’s lacking among some managers is a basic level of respect; not for a player’s musical ability, but for their professionalism.  This regrettable attitude is one of the reasons it’s critical that managers have some life experience as practicing artists, not merely being trained as an artist. 

In addition to Patricia’s comments, there’s been a flood of email responses to this greater issue from managers and musicians alike, which will be examined in some upcoming articles.

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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