Growing Storm Or Much To-Do About Nothing?

I am heading to the studios of WBEZ, Chicago [correction, I was actually at the NPR, Chicago Bureau studio] to record an interview with NPR about an issue within the business that is slowing garnering public attention…

One of the topics for discussion is the growing trend of larger budget orchestras establishing multi-week residency programs in major metropolitan areas far away from their home city and the long term impact they may have on those satellite cities. I’ll post details about when the radio program will be broadcast in the near future but since I don’t want to spoil any surprises about the topic I’ll keep the name of the program and the host under wraps for the time being.

This interview is fortuitous because I’ve been putting together data to write an article about some of the exact issues slotted for discussion but since this NPR interview is getting things started off, I’m curious to know whether or not anyone out there already considers issues related to the one topic mentioned above. Is this something you think about and if so, what are your thoughts?

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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4 thoughts on “Growing Storm Or Much To-Do About Nothing?”

  1. I assume you’re talking about the Cleveland Orchestra’s jaunt to Miami. I think it’s the best thing that could happen.

    The excitement of hearing a great orchestra, and the yeast it will inject into a city where classical music is in trouble will last for years.

    I grew up in a small town, and I still remember the excitement of going to the (alas now extinct) Community Concert series. Even better was when they brought in clinicians to show what was possible.

    There’s no objection when the Philadelphia Orchestra goes to Robin Hood Dell, or the Cleveland Orchestra goes to Blossom. Why should anyone begrudge those benefits to the rest of us?

  2. I think a great orchestra coming to a smaller city is fine. Although in my case my city is larger than some of the big 5 cities, yet the orchestra is only a fraction of the budget size. I think hearing and seeing a great band would be helpful to everyone who is interested in music in that community. It may inspire boards and players alike. The downside of course is board members may see this as an opportunity to get a more prestigious orchestra a few times a year for a smaller price and less headache than keeping their hometown orhcestra afloat. Also it may invite unfair comparisions between the two groups. Comparisions of level of playing but also demeanor. Asking “why can’t you guys act more like Cleveland on stage”? Without really comprehending the layers of difference.

  3. The Cleveland Orchestra is here for all of 3 pairs of concerts this season. That’s not the coming of the Messiah. Without them, we still have this season the Chicago, Boston Pops, St. Martin in the Fields, Atlanta, Sao Paulo, Russian Philharmonic, Hungarian State, and Hamburg, at 2 per. Our very own New World Symphony does 30 concerts this season. Farther afield, various chamber orchestras in Broward and Palm Beach Counties do good work. We still need to find steady employment for our wonderful local musicians, who barely make ends meet, since the demise of the old Florida Philharmonic.

  4. Growing up in Ann Arbor during the Philadelphia Orchestra’s May Festival years was a special treat. Our band directors used these 4-6 concerts as a way to show us how our instruments should sound.

    These concerts triggered a greater interest and ability in an already fine public school music program, and many of my classmates have become leading members of major orchestras through the years.

    So there are great benefits to the community if they invest time and energy in these residencies.

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