Lecturing Today At Northwestern University

I’m off to Northwestern University School of Music today to talk to students on the realities of entering a performance career…

In particular, the seminar entitled “So, you want to be in an orchestra – a workshop discussing the realities of orchestra life” will focus on the inherent issues which shape the reality of winning, maintaining, and surviving a job in a professional orchestra.

Yes, it is good to talk about how musicians might expand their roles in orchestras, better communicate with managers, or be more effective by learning how to simultaneously work in the school system but reality dictates that there are far more important issues at the heart of an orchestra musician’s career which need to be addressed first.

In many cases, preparing students to adequately manage these fundamental challenges is necessary before they’ll ever be in a position to effectively participate in the other topics de jour, such as those mentioned above. Furthermore, while those poplar issues are certain to come and go, the fundamentals never change.

As such, it is good to see institutions such as Northwestern University design a series of seminars, such as the one today to help better prepare their students for the trials ahead. In a perfect world, academia will see the benefit in incorporating seminars and workshops such as these into their required course work. In fact, arts administration programs should include a component to make future managers aware of the issues I’ll be examining today with the Northwestern students. But until then, I’m pleased to be playing a part in this essential task.

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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