Searching For The Holy Grail Of Job Satisfaction

Although the orchestra business faces a great deal of uncertainty in the upcoming years, there’s one problem which doesn’t show any signs of abating; job satisfaction among musicians.

Several articles here at Adaptistration have touched on this subject before, most notably one from March 16, 2004.  However, there was a good article in Ilkka Talvi’s blog from a few days ago entitled Happier Artists, which examines the problem from a unique point of view.

In the article he talks about the willingness of musicians to participate in more fulfilling mission objective related activities within the orchestra other than just performing.  At the same time, he laments over the lack of follow through among some of his past orchestra managers to implement any of these ideas or take advantage of a musician’s willingness to do more,

“Every time I suggested this idea in meetings, the response was always positive, yet nothing concrete ever materialized as a result. It is as if the management doesn’t want to have happier artists. Go figure”.

The ideas Ilkka presented are very similar to those I wrote about in the article How Tuba Players Are Going To Save Classical Music, where Dallas Symphony tubist, Matt Good talked about a program his orchestra used to employ but has sense disbanded,

“The DSO used to have a concert format that would feature a 90 minute program and hire musicians to play in the lobby before and after concerts.  They also used to encourage the musicians by offering something like drink vouchers to mingle with the patrons and just talk to them.

They were always well attended and the musicians that talked to the patrons usually had a wonderful time.  But we’ve been cutting back on this program and I don’t know why.  Management needs to invest money and time in a program like this.  I could definitely see that it was getting more people interested and it was becoming a tradition that people wanted to be a part of.”

With financial problems slowing growing more sever in many orchestras, you can only expect that instances of increased stress and job dissatisfaction will be on the rise.  Hopefully, there are more managers out there than not who understand the real dangers of letting this grow into a full blown case of apathy.

To learn more about why many orchestra musicians have such a low level of job satisfaction, take the time to read this wonderful paper written by Robert and Seymour Levine.

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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