Things That Make You Go “Buh?” – California Symphony

It’s barely been two months and I’ve already come across some material for the second installment in the Things That Make You Go "Buh?" series. How would you feel if your local ABC affiliate used the following phrase to define your in-school education program [emphasis added]: "[the program] is the brainchild of maestro Barry Jekowsky who believes it’s about exposure, not excellence."…

That quote is from the transcription of an on-air report from the June 2nd, 2006 edition of KGO News7, a San Francisco area ABC affiliate, about an in-school education program from the California Symphony.

I’m an ardent believer that there is no such thing as bad press, especially in the orchestra business. Any attention is good just so long as you can stay in the public consciousness. At the same time, I have yet to come across a conductor, manager, or player that stresses exposure to music over excellence.

Nevertheless, I wonder if the folks at KGO News7 news weren’t misinterpreting the remarks from California Symphony’s music director Barry Jekowsky. Then I noticed the link which provided access to the actual video segment and based on the edited conversation between the reporter and Barry Jekowsky, it does seem like that’s the point Barry was getting across.

If nothing else, this incident is a perfect example of how important it is for orchestra representatives to keep in mind that many general reporters don’t have a comprehensive understanding of this business or the art. As such, the ability to quickly formulate and convey a clear message to the media is an absolutely critical skill for anyone in a representative position to develop.

After talking to a local reporter about your in-school education programs, which impression would you hope they came away with:

  • "It’s not the quality of a program we present that we’re concerned about, it’s the quantity of students that get to listen to us."
  • "We don’t expect every child that experiences our education program to walk away and become a professional musician; instead, we do hope that we’re successful in developing a sincere level of interest and enjoyment for live classical music in as many of the students as possible."
  • 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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