Well That Was Easy

The Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra recently announced they identified a permanent replacement to replace interim president Ann Koonsman who was filling in after the abrupt departure of Katherine Akos…


Back in late Juanuary, I published an article about the going-ons in Fort Worth and made the following observation:

Undoubtedly, the ability of Ann Koonsman, retired FWSO president & CEO, to step in as the interim executive leader so they can have ample time to conduct a thorough search for a full time replacement had a significant impact on their final decision. It isn’t often an orchestra board has that sort of resource at their disposal.

Barely a month later the board made the announcement that they managed to identify, interview, and secure the services of a seasoned executive leader that has proven they have the ability to build an organization into a well regarded artistic force, just like Ann Koonsman accomplished. Furthermore, they did this during a time when capable executive leaders are apparently harder to find than a nudist on an iceberg (or according to the newspapers, just the iceberg).

They hired Ann Koonsman.

Although the FWSO board of directors should consider themselves fortunate, it’s good to see an executive who cares enough about an organization (one they have already dedicated a considerable amount of their life to build) decide to come out of retirement to help them get back on track after a two year directional malaise.

Instead of tossing a generic executive search net into the same waters as everyone else, perhaps the organization will use this time to explore unconventional methods for finding Ann’s replacement when she retires for a second time.

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 “Well That Was Easy

  1. Everyone likes to be proven correct. In a MyAuditions blog the past two weeks, I have talked about my deep concern for the lack of good, high quality Executive Directors in this country. Drew’s statement about capable leaders being harder to find than a nudist on an iceberg proved my point. Drew is dead on and if people don’t want to listen to me, would you please listen to Drew?!?!? Top notch musicians continue to increase in numbers which in turn means that orchestras from large to small in this country will continue to improve dramatically over the next decade. The real problem is finding good leaders to support these musicians and at present, these people don’t exist in large numbers.

  2. “The real problem is finding good leaders to support these musicians”
    THis is so importnat, I suspect it really needs teasing out. WOudl it be possible for people around this blog to engage in the exercise of defining the characteristics of a “good leader” for an orchestra? Not just Drew – but several people? we might end up with a monster, or course. On the other hand, I think it would be good to see what are the characteristics that we can identify in good orchestral leadership.

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