Pop Quiz Results

Monday’s Pop Quiz that was designed to determine how much you know about governance, budgets, and the current job market for the professional orchestra business returned some intriguing results…


Overall, there were 62 respondents; all but one completed every question. The purpose of the quiz wasn’t to test black and white knowledge so much as create some sincere thought about the issues inspired by the questions. Nevertheless, the responses provide their own intriguing topics of conversation.

Question #1
Which of following job categories had the greatest number of positions listed at the ASOL careers website on 08/19/06?

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Hands down, development positions are most prevalent with 42 jobs listed. The runner up was marketing with 29 open positions followed closely by executive director/general manager with 26 open positions. At the bottom of the list are music director/conductor and education/community engagement, both with only 12 positions listed.

So overall, the bulk of respondents had a good feel for which positions are currently in greatest demand. Accordingly, given the current financial condition of many orchestras, it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that development professionals are currently in such demand.

Question #2
Which of the following job categories had the greatest number of resumes listed at the ASOL careers website on 08/19/06?

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This was the first question that the majority of respondents answered incorrectly. However, once again, one job category runs away with the lead position: music director/conductor with 133 resumes on file. Artistic administration was a distant second place with 62 resumes on file and the fewest number of resumes on file were executive director/general manager with 19.

It’s interesting to think about why the responses favored executive directors. Do most people think there’s an influx of individuals looking for jobs so there must be a large number of resumes as well? After all, 27.4% of respondents believed executive director/general manager would have the greatest number of open positions. How do you think orchestras find their executive director/general manager candidates? Do you think they actively search resumes on file at the League or do they use a different method?

Questions #3 & #4
I admit that I designed these pair of questions to be tricky. However, even though the majority of respondents thought the combined budgets for all ensembles were greater than the budget for the NEA; two more respondents felt that New York and Chicago had greater combined budgets than L.A. and San Francisco. In fact, the opposite is true and that difference is just enough to make the majority of answers to question #3 incorrect:

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The 2004 budget for the NEA was $120,971,000 whereas the combined budgets for New York and Chicago came to $112,329,125, just below the NEA budget, and the combined budgets for L.A. and San Francisco came to $127,320,009, just over the NEA budget.

I think some interesting questions from all of this are “why is the NEA budget so low?” and “why do the west coast orchestras have larger combined budgets than tradition Big 5 orchestras?”. What do you think?

Question #5
Which group of stakeholders is bestowed with the legal authority to govern a professional orchestra?

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It wasn’t even close; the vast majority of respondents knew that the board of directors is embodied with the legal authority to govern. If you’d like to know more about why this is and how that leadership impacts an organization, you can find more information here.

Questions #6 & #7

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Again, the majority of respondents answered these questions correctly; however, 27.4% of respondents felt that executive directors had direct control over hiring music directors and conductors. These responses inspire some good questions; such as whether or not respondents answered the way they did because they felt executive directors had more influence over the hiring practice as compared to actual authority. What do you think?

Question #8
The majority of orchestras allow their musicians to select incoming musicians. True or False?

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Of all the questions, I designed this one to go either way and both answers are correct. However, I personally think that “True” is more accurate as this is one area of hiring that most musicians are contractually guaranteed an ability to participate in as an audition committee empowered to design the audition process as well as actually vote for candidates.

At the same time, it can be argued that “False” is a more accurate answer because some orchestras give music directors a weighted vote during final round of auditions, thus ensuring them the capability to select the candidate they feel is most qualified regardless of how the musicians on the audition committee vote. What do you think?

Question #9

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It was good to see that the vast majority of respondents used the knowledge in their head or went with their gut to answer the questions. Based on the results, those instincts aren’t too bad.

Question #10

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As always, it’s a pleasure to see that such a wide variety of individuals who care about orchestras visit Adaptistration. In particular, the strong percentage of those that identify themselves as “patrons” and “other” demonstrates an active interest in how orchestras operate and govern themselves. Of course, that’s a good sign and I encourage those same individuals to take an active role in learning as much as they can about their respective orchestras in order to help influence its evolution and to ensure that the ensemble is reaching its artistic and organizational potential.

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 “Pop Quiz Results

  1. This is a bit misleading, since the ASOL cleans out these listing on an irregular basis. For example, a month or so ago, the marketing listings were at the top, nearly double anything else, with many expired postings still there. The ASOL cleaned these out and marketing returned to its more typical No.2 ranking (although it still has at least five jobs well past their “applications closed” dates. The number of non-orchestra jobs listed will also vary. So this is a slightly unreliable measure of the industry’s direction.

  2. I can see Rob’s point but at the same time is there any other orchestra administration & conducting jobs board available that is more comprehensive than what the League’s maintains? Additionally, is there any other site that maintains a searchable list of job posting and resumes as comprehensive as the Leagues

    At the same time, I would agree that whether or not they maintain the list to the level they should is a useful discussion. However, I also know a number of recent positions have gone unfilled and end up being reposted after an initial post expires. I can’t say if that influences how the League updates the board but it’s something to consider.

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