Recent Development In Omaha

Although the orchestras Omaha and San Antonio are 830 miles apart amidst very different community structures, their prospects share a great deal in common. In particular, both communities are experiencing a sort of cultural renaissance, one orchestra (Omaha) recently moved into a new primary venue while the other (San Antonio) has a new venue on the drawing table, and both organizations are engaged in collective bargaining negotiations…

In Omaha’s case, a recent article in the Omaha World- Herald by Ashley Hassebroek does an excellent job at outlining the area’s cultural growth and a similar article by San Antonio News-Express critic Mike Greenberg details San Antonio’s recent and planned cultural growth.

It is worth considering just how important each orchestra’s current collective bargaining negotiations will influence the role each organization assumes during their respective cultural growth cycles. On one extreme, either organization may fail to become an integral component of their respective growth cycle and be forced into a position of playing perpetual catch-up. On the other extreme, either organization may move into a leadership position which their greater cultural community may use as a benchmark for measuring community-wide success.

In the end, perhaps both of these negotiations are a sort of figurative canary in the mine for the emerging class of mid-budget size American orchestra. Furthermore, how the musicians and management/board at each institution conduct themselves and the positions they espouse during these negotiations will not only influence their collective bargaining agreements, it will set the tone for how this business establishes benchmarks for the next decade.

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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