Atlanta Is The New Pittsburgh

In 2005-2006 the Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre underwent sever institutional trauma by making a snap decision to eliminate the pit orchestra. After several months of no live music and contentious bargaining the PBT board and musicians finally found a solution which brought live music back to the ballet. Now, the 2006-2007 season is seeing the very same events transpire but this time it’s in Atlanta…


Based on the media coverage so far, I’d say you could swap out “Atlanta” for “Pittsburgh” and you wouldn’t be able to tell much of a difference between the two situations. As such, the events are unraveling in much the same way.

In Pittsburgh’s case, the settlement was reached in conjunction with the arrival of Harris N. Ferris, their new executive director. However, whether or not Atlanta is looking for a new executive or board leadership is publicly unknown.

Given the amount of similarities between the two situations, you would think the situation in Atlanta has a solution that’s simply waiting for both sides to uncover. Of course, in order for that to transpire both sides will need to be willing to look for it.

I have a feeling this isn’t going to be over in a week or tow. But I’ve been wrong before and, hopefully, this is one of those times. Stay tuned as I plan to post more on the situation as it develops.

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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