The Executive Shuffle: Where Are They Now?

Over the Thanksgiving holiday I took some time to perform some much needed behind-the-scenes maintenance at Adaptistration. During that process, I came across an article published on 02/03/2004 entitled The Executive Shuffle which examined the movement of orchestra executives across the country and after reading over the list of individuals on that list, I noticed that exactly half of them have already moved on to different positions. As such, I though it was high time to examine those changes and report on who moved where …

1. Former Alabama Symphony executive Paul Ferrone came to the Alabama Symphony position from Hartford Symphony Orchestra where he served as general manager. In October, 2006 Paul resigned from his position and within a month formed a Limited liability Company consulting firm targeting nonprofit organizations.

2. Former Charleston Symphony executive Sandy Ferencz. Sandy came to the Charleston Symphony as an outsider. Unfortunately for the orchestra, it didn’t’ take long for her to move right back out and just this week, the Charleston Post and Courier reports that the organization is on the verge of collapse.

3. Former New Jersey Symphony Orchestra executive Simon Woods remained in that position for barely one year. Simon, a U.K. native, has since returned to the U.K. to assume an executive position with the Royal Scottish National Orchestra. Since his departure, the organization has suffered a continuing series of financial setbacks but after several months of searching, they recently selected organ maker André Gremillet to serve as their new President & CEO.

4. Former Roanoke Symphony executive Paul Chambers came to the organization after presiding over the collapse of the Savannah Symphony. He left the position in May, 2006 after running up more than $480,000 in debt and coming under criticism for nepotistic behavior when hading out administrative work contracts. Shortly thereafter, the organization appointed Roanoke native and former general manager Brian Black to serve as their new executive director.

5. Former Seattle Symphony executive Paul Meecham left the organization shortly after a public showdown between the SSO’s music director and musicians over the MD’s contract extension. Shortly thereafter, Paul made a lateral move to a similar position with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra to replace the organization’s controversial executive, James Glicker; an individual who stayed in that position for less than two years.

Perhaps not surprisingly, there’s quite a bit more going on than just the above individuals and as time permits, I’ll put together a more comprehensive list.

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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7 thoughts on “The Executive Shuffle: Where Are They Now?”

  1. What is your point, Drew? If half of the executives you wrote about have left their jobs, it also means that half have stayed. (I was never very good in math but I think that’s right.)

    Can Doug Whitaker tell us all what is “truly wrong with symphonic managements today?

  2. XyloGuy: You may need to go back to the original article to gather everything you need to begin to see some of the points. However, there are several issues at hand; not the least of which is a turnover percentage that is far too high.

    One of the current problems in many organizations is a lack of consistent leadership which in turn enables the development and implementation of a strategic vision. Could you imagine San Francisco’s growth in the 90’s or Nashvlle’s current rise within the business without the prolonged leadership of Peter Pastreich or Alan Valentine?

    Another point is the inherent negative impact resulting from an overly cyclic environment of executive placement, which is an issue which has been examined here in separate issues over the past few years.

  3. I witnessed this exact problem as a member of an orchestra that had 4 executive directors in three years.

    I think the bigger issue is how much time are the boards for these different orchestras taking to make such a big decision to hire an executive director? Are they hiring a head-hunter? This could be money well spent. Also, in which orchestras are the musicians being heard about their inputs for the different candidates?
    And, are music directors putting their noses into the hiring process–possibly where there noses shouldn’t be?

  4. I wasn’t disagreeing, Drew, just asking what your “point” was. However, you still haven’t told us your opinion as to WHY there is a “turnover percentage which is far too high.” Why do you think this is happening and what would you do – say, if you were the board president of an orchestra – to change things?

    Can you explain – in plain English – what you mean by “inherent negative impact resulting from an overly cyclic environment of executive placement…”

    Thank you very much.

  5. XyloGuy: I don’t recall any point in the comments where anyone mentioned that you didn’t agree with anything in the article but I’m glad to hear that you aren’t disagreeing.

    There are numerous articles throughout Adaptistration’s archives which discuss the issues related to the executive turnover issue you asked about, all of which you can locate using the search feature located toward the top of the right hand navigation column.

    I’m not entirely certain what you define as constituting Plain English so I’m at a bit of a loss to offer anything which addresses your final request. After going over the comment again – and even asking a colleague to look it over – we’re both at a loss as to where you’re getting lost. Could you offer a little more detail behind what is confusing you?

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