What’s up With Destroying Things

For those of you stopping by today to read the final installment in the Harvest, Build, and Destroy series, I have to offer my apologies.  Due to some last minute preparations for meeting with my accountant (taxes!), I wasn’t able to put the finishing touches on the article; however, it will be published on Monday


Nevertheless, allow me take this time to further explain some of the concepts from Part1 and Part 2 which some of you have already been writing in about.


How can “Destroying” anything be good?
Several readers have already written in to ask about the use of the term “destroy” and how it applies to this concept.  More interestingly, were the varied concepts of what people believe I am referring to:



  • The Musicians who wrote in tended to perceive “destroy” as standing up for themselves and righting the wrongs they observe in their respective organizations.
  • About 2/3 of the Managers who wrote in thought I was trying to make them look like a bunch of bullies and that I was advocating the idea that musicians should go around and try to pick a fight with them.  The remaining managers were concerned about how much more difficult this idea would make day to day operations.
  • The majority of Patrons who wrote in tend to be confused as to why anyone in an orchestra would want to destroy anything.

Those are all worthwhile observations and/or concerns which would be addressed when considering a concept such as this.  However, those interpretations all have a negative context to the term “destroy”.  On the other hand, my application of the term “destroy” refers simply to the goal of eliminating the ability of any stakeholder group with an orchestra institution (board members, managers, and musicians) to act in bad faith.


The real enemy of good will and ongoing positive relations within an orchestra are apathy, lethargy, ignorance, personal ambition, and a deficiency of unrestricted communication.  There will always be conflict, disagreement, and pessimism within an orchestral organization, but the extent to how much of that is self inflicted or augmented by the constituents themselves is something that could stand to be improved.


This is the context where the idea of “destroy” can bring about constructive change.

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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