Some Brief Views On Competition

There was an interesting article in the April 24th edition of the San Diego Union-Tribune by Valerie Scher which examined whether or not is was beneficial to have a number of outside orchestras visit a city which hosts a full time orchestra.

The piece does a good job at examining both sides of the equation and has input from a number of different concerned sources.  It presents an opinion on the issue from the San Diego Symphony executive director Edward B. “Ward” Gill,

“Two visiting orchestras (per season) at Symphony Hall that’s plenty.”

In the end, having a number of visiting orchestras can only help your situation.  Ideally, it would be great to see the bulk of American orchestras expand on currently existing exchange programs; Milwaukee and Minnesota swap out for a week or Indianapolis and Kansas City switch places.  It would be fantastic if every orchestra could participate in an exchange program at least one a season.

However, the article presented one concern regarding the idea of bringing in more than a few visiting orchestras each season from San Diego Symphony music director Jahja Ling,

“At the same time, there are understandable concerns about competition with the San Diego Symphony. Unlike its traveling counterparts, the symphony doesn’t tour. That makes it all the more essential for the orchestra to reach local audiences audiences, moreover, that might be attracted to high-profile out-of-towners.
“We are at the point where we need to establish our own identity, our own sense of belonging to our community We want to nurture our audiences here so that they have faith in the symphony.”

But if you consider the fact that if San Diego follows the national average and therefore has about 4% of their local community participates in classical music events, you can feasibly have a visiting orchestra play in your primary venue to a capacity house while the home orchestra uses that time to visit a local suburban community.

In the end, there should be plenty of people to go around and if you take enough time to plan the events in advance to allow for proper marketing, it should be a win-win scenario.

Of course, there’s quite a bit more to discuss on this issue and a number of questions and concerns have probably popped up in your mind.  So take a few minuets during a break in your day and talk to someone about it, make it the water cooler topic of the day.

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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