And They’re Off!

The Columbus Symphony Orchestra recently announced that Junichi Hirokami will serve as the organization’s next music director, beginning June 1st. This marks the first new music director appointment for 2006 and that fact in and of itself isn’t usually enough to stop the presses until you consider just how many orchestras are looking for music directors right now…


Columbus was one of several orchestras currently engaged in a music director search in 2006. Off the top of my head, I can think of eight ICSOM symphony orchestras currently looking for music directors: Chicago, Dallas, Detroit, Honolulu, Louisville, Nashville, National, and Pittsburgh (if I’m missing any, let me know). I don’t know if this number is any sort of record but regardless, it’s still quite a few.

2005 witnessed a number of new appointments as well with the orchestras in Baltimore, Colorado, Kansas City, New Jersey, Phoenix, and St. Louis all announcing a new music director or christening a new music director’s tenure.

So where are all these conductors coming from? Apparently, a number of orchestras currently searching are wondering the same thing. In Chicago, mum’s the word as they dance the Big 5 dance with New York (who is already snatching up guest conductors with long term contracts in an attempt to corner the market while searching for Maestro Maazel’s replacement).

In Phoenix and Baltimore, they called off their search process early and simply announced a finalist whereas in Pittsburgh, they’ve decided to adopt a long term approach and have appointed a trifecta leadership team (after all, there’s no “I” in team) while they search for someone the organization considers a worthwhile replacement.

Nevertheless, the folks in Columbus get to bask in the post-music-director-appointment-glow for the time being. My sources inside the orchestra say that the players are very pleased with Maestro Hirokami and are looking forward to working with him. Now all they need is an executive director and they’re all set (by the way, Columbus isn’t the only outfit looking for both music and executive directors at the same time, Honolulu is in the same boat; when it rains, it pours).

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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2 thoughts on “And They’re Off!

  1. The following was written by Horatio Parker in the Boston Transcript of January 23rd, 1908:

    “Once more Mr. Higginson and the management of the orchestra are face to face with the choice and the securing of a new conductor. It may be that so long and steady a tenure as Mr. Gericke’s is impossible in these days of the changeful goings and comings of “star conductors” It may even stimulate the interest of the Symphony Concerts and the zest of their audiences that a new conductor should come oftener than he did in the past. On the other hand, any succession of “star conductors”, each for a few concerts, is impossible. The number of such conductors is soon exhausted: the appetite for a new sensation that they breed in their hearers soon becomes abnormal and unmusical. It substitutes personalities for music. As the quality and the position of the Boston Orchestra is today, as the standards of its audiences here and elsewhere are, it requires a conductor of signal and acknowledged abilities, in the first rank, or assuredly on the way to it.”

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