Do You Get It? Some April Fool’s Day Fun

In order to demonstrate just how wacky this business can be, I’ve assembled a group of “media releases” from recent events. Some are real and others are complete fabrications, can you tell which one is which…


Yee-Haw!, er, Uh-Oh!
In a decision that sparked a national media frenzy the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra announced that it cancelled a scheduled “Dukes of Hazzard” themed Pops concert featuring appearances by some of the original television program’s stars because some in the community found the show “racist and offensive”.

According to a press release from the orchestra, “we decided that some of the messages conveyed in the program are not consistent with the efforts of the Pops to reach out to all members of our community.”

Real of Fabricated? REAL

Move Over Madame Butterfly
New York City Opera director designate Gerard Mortier, who takes the reigns of power in 2009, is already putting his personal stamp on future City Opera seasons with the announcement that the Lincoln Center based opera company has commissioned a new opera based on the life and death of former playmate and reality television personality Anna Nicole Smith. International pop star Sting has agreed to write the musical score in collaboration with a yet to be named librettist. Peter Sellars will direct.

“The debate over who holds the [unofficial] title of The People’s Opera Company in New York City is over,” said Mortier in a press release. “I don’t think you’ll ever see anything like this at our neighbors across the way.”

Real of Fabricated? FABRICATED

Putting Their Money Where Their Mouth Is
In the wake of their recent music director related PR troubles, the board of the San Antonio Symphony is adding a “sweetener” to its oft stated desire to have the new music director of the San Antonio Symphony be a resident of the historic city.

Toward that end, the SAS board is offering to completely underwrite any permanent housing costs for the new maestro when he or she is signed to a contract. In a press release reportedly issued by the organization, SAS board chair Ken Oleson states “Our board is convinced that the next Music Director should have a strong community presence and what better way than by residing in our beautiful city? I’m pleased that our board has stepped up in such a dramatic way. We want our conductor to live in our city and we’re willing to pay for it.”

Real of Fabricated? FABRICATED

So That’s Where Violists Come From
In Boulder, CO a 63 year old substitute music teacher, nicknamed “Mrs. Grumpy Lady” by students, has been arrested after allegedly smacking a 10-year-old student on the head with a viola bow. According to reports, the music instructor also told the class of music students they were “the worst players I’ve ever heard.”

Additionally, the student in question reportedly claimed “Mrs. Grumpy Lady” pulled her hair. When asked about the incident, the substitute music teacher reportedly said the “students complained because she was white and they are Hispanic.”

Real of Fabricated? REAL


A special thanks to a Chicago friend for crafting the fabricated events. This is a good example of what happens when violists have too many rests…

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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