Some Good Cultural Reporting In Tucson

The 07/20/06 edition of the Tucson Weekly published an article by James Reel that examines the current state of the Tucson Symphony Orchestra…

I think it’s important to point out examples of really good cultural journalism and this article fits the bill. Usually, these articles appear in papers that service larger size communities but I’m especially pleased to see an article of this quality appearing in the Tucson press.

James’ article does a good job of examining some American Symphony Orchestra League statistics and comparing those to the situation in Tucson. In particular, I think this article is well written because it doesn’t accept those statistics at face value and it asks some relevant questions which offers readers that may be unfamiliar with the recent history of American orchestras some necessary perspective.

It also does an excellent job at examining current programming that is a result of the orchestra’s fiscal situation. At the same time, the article points out what it believes are some of the creative ways the music director was able to work something other than orchestral schlock into next year’s repertoire.

Finally, the author does what I think needs to happen more in cultural articles, it strips away the jargon that is so popular in this business. James calls it “admin-speak” in the article.

Does your local newspaper feature cultural writing on this level? If so, make sure you contact the paper’s editors to let them know you appreciate it and if not, write the editors and let them know you want it.

Postscript: In the article, there’s one quote from the TSO’s executive director which really caught my attention. It has to do with a statistic she is apparently proud of but based on a recent study of the business, I find myself wondering why. Which quote and which study do you think I’m referring to?

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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3 thoughts on “Some Good Cultural Reporting In Tucson

  1. Drew
    Could it be:
    “we have a total of 7,500 people in the hall. That means we’re reaching close to 1 percent of Tucson’s population in a single weekend–that’s pretty impressive.”

    Just a wild guess!

  2. Ron: That’s certainly one of the aspects I was thinking about although I would go so far as to examine that statement next to the results from the Knight Foundation’s Consumer Segmentation Study.

  3. My guess you were thinking of the subsciption rate quote. The quote that gave me the willies was from the conductor about programming. When a conductor that I used to work for spoke of “market driven programming” my eyes glazed over, because I knew that we would be playing the same old stuff over and over. The audience eventually got as bored as the musicians. Some of their programming sound intriguing though. Good luck to them.

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