April 15, 2007 Weekly News Roundup

Elephants, pissants, and Dudamel, oh my!…

“Using An Elephant To Trample The Pissants”
According to reports from the Berkshire Eagle and the Boston Globe the 750 Boston Symphony Orchestra volunteers at their Tanglewood and Symphony Hall facilities will now have to pay a mandatory $75 contribution to the organization as part of their volunteer agreement. Perhaps predictably, some volunteers were not pleased with the decision and that displeasure led one volunteer to tell the Berkshire Eagle he thought the decision was tantamount to “…using an elephant to trample the pissants”.

In addition to the two media article above, Boston Globe writer Geoff Edgers posted some great additional material at his Boston Globe blog. All of this makes me wonder if the $41,250 (550 volunteers x $75 each) could have been made up through basic improvements to their website, as indicated in the 2006 Orchestra Website Review.

Regarding that review, back in September, 2006 the Boston Globe’s Geoff Edgers published a blog entry that sheds some interesting perspective on the BSO’s current financial decisions:

“The most important thing is how well they present their concert schedule, sell tickets, provide organizational information and facilitate making donations,” McManus tells us. “They end up throwing out a lot of hurdles.”

We asked Mark Volpe, the BSO’s managing director, about the D+. Volpe said that the BSO wasn’t particularly concerned. “We did $6 million in e-commerce last year,” he said.

Something You Probably Haven’t Heard About Gustavo Dudamel
The orchestra world’s new lover-boy dreamboat is a big hit. If he were john Lennon and this were 1966, his publicist could probably get away with saying he’s “More Popular Than Jesus”. After all, Dudamel has proven to be nothing short of a miraculous boost for the classical music biz.

However, the real story behind his rise to fame is his history growing up in the Venezuelan “Foundation of the State for the National System of the Orchestras Youth and Children” program, commonly referred to as FESNOJIV. I had the distinct pleasure of experiencing this program first hand and I’m not the least bit surprised it has produced individuals of Dudamel’s character. In fact, I published a four part series of articles entitled “The Future Of Classical Music Is In Venezuela.” Apparently, the series was aptly named (part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4).

On November 6 – 9, you can see Dudamel in his native environment as he conducts the FESNOJIV flagship ensemble, the Simon Bolivar National Youth Orchestra, at a series of events in Boston’s Symphony Hall, and participates in chamber music and a free joint concert with students from the New England Conservatory of Music. For tickets to NEC events, call the NEC box office at 617-585-1260.

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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