Richard Dyer Couldn’t Be More Wrong

Richard Dyer’s article appearing in today’s Boston Globe should receive an award for being the only article about this mess in Baltimore which comes as far away as possible from hitting the mark…

In the article Dyer paints the musicians as a bunch of sexist, misogynist dinosaurs who only want to play standard repertoire,

No musicians are going to say they object to Alsop because she is a woman. Libel considerations prevent their attacking her musicianship. Are there problems with her commitment to contemporary music, especially American music? Could the Baltimore Symphony still believe that the mainstream 19th- and early-20th-century European repertoire is the only valid test of musical importance, the only thing that is going to attract the public?

Perhaps Richard didn’t read Tim Page’s article in the 7/19/05 edition of The Washington Post or he may have found a few answers to those questions.

Dyer’s article goes onto make some really incredible statement such as,

Alsop’s musicianship surely cannot be in question.

Music is, at best, subjective. Anyone’s musicianship can be questioned; conductor, soloist, or orchestra musician. If anyone is aware of that fact, it should be a music critic. It’s obvious that the gist of Dyer’s article is about Marin, but that misses the point. This mess in Baltimore has never been about any conductor, rather, it’s about the crippling internal problems between the musicians, and executive managers & board members.

As the musician’s statement following the board’s vote on Tuesday said, they will work with any conductor who comes to Baltimore with equal skill and effort. They’re professionals, and that’s what pros do. Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean they aren’t allowed to have their own opinions and thoughts about the process their organization should use to determine their artistic leaders. To say otherwise is to reduce their contribution to the organization as a mere cog in a wheel, easily replaced and expendable.

It take years, if not decades, of hard work for an orchestra to develop a unique sound worthy or artistic distinction. Dyer’s article makes it seem as though the players are merely crying sour grapes at being outvoted in the search committee process,

The Baltimore players were consulted but overruled, and it’s clear they don’t like it — and they can’t say why. It could be that they are suffering delusions of grandeur –

It’s clear that Dyer doesn’t understand the process the BSO used during the search process or the reasons behind why it developed the way it did (although he could have caught a clue by reading one of my postings from a few days ago).

In the end it is sloppy (Richard apparently missed that article from the Washington Post), opinionated (he believes some conductor’s musicianship is beyond question), and vitriolic (“it could be that [the BSO musicians] are suffering from delusions of grandeur”) writing like this which only adds to the problems within the business.

There’s much, much more going on inside the Baltimore symphony which deserves attention. It’s too bad Richard doesn’t appear to know about any of it.

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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