Hidden Competition

The Partial Observer published an article of mine today about orchestras and competition. Although I doubt we’ll ever see direct competition between orchestras, the business already has quite a few similarities to professional athletics, especially in the realm of attracting and retaining talent. It’s worth your time to give the article a read, plus you’ll get to listen to some really funny material by Peter Schickele on orchestra competition; although instead of pitting orchestras against each other he imagined pitting conductors against players (after all, the best comedy is nothing more than a derivative of real life).

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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4 thoughts on “Hidden Competition

  1. Drew,

    I remember a piece by Joseph Robinson, former Principal Oboist of the New York Philharmonic, in the now defunct “Harmony” magazine, issued by the Symphony Orchestra Institute, a few years back. He argued for having a concert with two orchestras on the same bill, duking it out. He said that the quasi compeition aspect of the “Three Tenors” concerts (from the audience perspecitive at least!) made those concerts attractive to the average Joe. I think such a concert involving orchestras would be terrific fun, especially among regional orchestras vying for respect and growth.

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