Negotiation Special Update: No Confidence In Omaha

According to a statement released by the Omaha Symphony Musicians Organization on June 22, the musicians have passed a Vote of No Confidence in Omaha Symphony President & CEO Rob Hallam…


According to the statement, although the exact vote tally was not released, there where no votes in opposition. Currently, collective bargaining negotiations between the Omaha Symphony musicians and management have ground to a halt and the musicians’ No Confidence vote is a result of what they defined as Mr. Hallam’s “failure to lead the organization effectively and efficiently despite spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on consulting fees since 2003.”

“Symphony management has failed to move the organization forward and in some ways has set us back,” said Craig Fuller, Omaha Symphony Principal Tubist and musician spokesperson. “How many studies, initiatives and task forces will it take for the management of the Symphony identify what needs to be done and then actually do it? We need a manager who has the skills to come up with a business plan without the expenses of consultants every few months to do the things a CEO should be doing.”

Rob Hallam and Omaha Symphony Board Chair William A. Fitzgerald declined to comment on the musician’s Vote of No Confidence and when asked for an official statement on the issue from the Omaha Symphony Association Lex Poppens, Omaha Symphony Vice President of Marketing and Communications, declined to comment and instead said that the organization is “Looking forward to a positive resolution to our negotiations.”

The fact that the issues of executive compensation, accountability, and board oversight are among the core issues of the Omaha Symphony’s collective bargaining negotiations is timely. Just this morning, I published the 2007 Adaptistration Compensation Report for ROPA Executive Directors. The conclusion to that article spends some time examining recent events in Omaha, which you can read here.

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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