Heading North

As they say in Chicago, I’m heading behind the “Cheddar Curtain*” today to serve as a guest lecturer for the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Bolz Center for Arts Administration, Arts Administration Seminar. I’m having the class of MBA candidates participate in a mock orchestra collective bargaining agreement negotiation but instead of having these future arts managers bargain from the perspective of management, they’ll be taking on the role of the musicians…

The students have already selected a five member negotiation committee among their ranks and that committee has been busily preparing by polling their fellow “musicians” on issues related to compensation, benefits, and artistic benchmarks. They’ve been in communication with me a few times so far requesting clarification on some of the parameters and looking for further information about the mock organization, SimOrchestra.

Consequently, the mock negotiation committee has dubbed themselves the “Artful Business Collective”; although I’m not entirely certain how they decided to go in that direction. They have also declined to elect a committee chair, a decision we’ll be examining in class today at one point.

There are some more fascinating issues based on the mock negotiation committee’s questions to date, but I’ll save those until after the events of today transpire.

Stay tuned…

*For those readers who grew up after the fall of the Soviet Union, this is a play on the phrase coined by Joseph Goebbels and made famous by Winston Churchill, “The Iron Curtain“.

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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