With the recent brouhaha in Seattle over the tenure of their music director, one of the central issues reported by the Seattle Weekly was the music director’s concern over being a lame duck. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to adequately wrap my mind around why that issue is such a concern…
The only concrete restrictions and outgoing music director has are those related to limitations on tenure review and artistic review. Typically, these restrictions are in place during the first and last years of a music director’s tenure.
However, these limitations aren’t across the board in every ensemble and I’m not aware if they exist in Seattle or not. For outgoing music directors, these limitations prevent them from retaliating against musicians on their way out and for incoming music directors, this prevents unfairly targeting musicians for removal until after they get to know them better.
Any other issues of ineffectiveness on behalf of an outgoing music director are purely perceived. You can always say they’ll have less influence on the administration to do bigger works they prefer but if they already have a good relationship with management and board and are popular with the public, they have pretty much free reign.
For example, look at Chicago where they performed the 9th symphonies of Bruckner, Mahler, and Beethoven for the final round of concerts featuring Daniel Barenboim as music director. It could even be argued that Barenboim didn’t have an “ideal” relationship with managers but he still left with quite an artistic splash.
In fact, good marketing and development staff can turn the event of an outgoing music director into a bonanza for the organization with “last chance to see the conductor” promotions. As such, I’m rather concerned over the sincerity of what any music director might consider as lame duck issues.
If any managers out there encounter a music director expressing concerns over these issues, I suggest you ask them specifically what they’re referring to and if they would be willing to take those concerns public. If they can’t articulate what they mean and baulk at the idea of taking them public then I would be concerned over issues of sincerity.