There Goes Joe

The Philadelphia Inquirer published an article by Peter Dobrin yesterday which reports that Philadelphia Orchestra president, Joe Kluger, will be resigning his position as of August 31st, 2005.

Peter’s article goes on to report that Joe will be assuming a consulting role with AEA Consulting, an arts consulting firm headed up by managing principal, Adrian Ellis.  I published a few articles  about some of Adrian’s views about the industry being overbuilt back in October, 2004.

It’s not surprising to see Joe move on to a consulting firm which adopts this point of view about the arts industry (for details about that concept and Adrian’s views you can read a piece published by Andrew Taylor as well as visit the AEA website), Joe’s been a continuing advocate for espousing the flawed belief of structural deficits.

The article goes on to say,

Attracting a replacement from another orchestra would likely mean that the group will have to join its peers in offering compensation in the mid-six-figures. Kluger’s $285,000 salary paled next to those of his colleagues, several of whom are earning between $700,000 and nearly $900,000 per year.

Although I hate the thought of the Philadelphia Orchestra having to pay an incoming person something in the neighborhood of mid-six-figures – just to get them in the door – I would have to agree with the assessment. And that’s the real problem here; why should this be the case?

I haven’t mentioned it in awhile but one of the biggest problems in this business is the belief that if an orchestra doesn’t shell out huge salaries for executives they won’t get a qualified candidate; but that’s just nonsense.

Yes, managers who do well should be rewarded with a compensation package which reflects thier success. However, if orchestra boards don’t require their executive managers to embrace the philosophy that they should be in this business for the same reasons as the musicians, then it’s a lost cause.  All you can expect in return is continued labor strife, a trail of bad decisions, a plague of terrible governance events, C.Y.A. as organizational policy, and an executive manager who will jump ship after they’ve used an organization up for their personal benefit.

The article wrapped up by reporting,

Kluger said today that it was by design that he got all of the blame and none of the credit for the orchestra’s unusually eventful past 16 years.
“My concept of leadership is give credit for great ideas to the music director, musicians, board and donors. My job is to accept responsibility.”

Perhaps Joe’s idea of accepting responsibility is best demonstrated in his accepting a $10,000 raise during last year’s contentious negotiations with musicians where his position was that the musicians had to accept pay cuts in order for the organization to survive (plus he fired a bunch of staffers). Hopefully, Joe’s new career will bring him all of the glory he apparently never felt came his way during his time with the Philadelphia Orchestra.

This sort of “leadership” has to stop and it shouldn’t cost a non profit organization $500,000 or more a year to end it.

The Big Challenge
I challenge the Philadelphia Orchestra Association (POA) leadership and any potential executive candidate for the job of POA president to expect a compensation package equal to but no greater than Joe’s compensation right now.

However, in five years time, if the new POA president can

  • Eliminate the organization’s accumulated deficit and institute a long term financial plan capable of maintain fiscal stability without forcing concessions from musicians and staffers.
  • Return musician and staff concessions from the last CBA bargaining session
  • Secure the funding to correct the acoustical problems in Verizon hall
  • Fundamentally improve inter-constituent relationships between all POA stakeholders
  • Provide genuine financial and operational transparency into the organization

then they should qualify for a sizeable increase in compensation.

The Philadelphia Orchestra is an organization which deserves to have an executive manager who is sincerely honored to serve the institution and simultaneously strong enough to heal its ailments without also killing the patient.

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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