Are Orchestra Still Being Dismantled?

Nearly three-and-a-half years ago, I wrote an article about the dangers of stagnation among the middle budget American orchestras…

Given recent events in Omaha and San Antonio (to name a few) I think the article is just as relevant now as it was in the beginning of 2004. As such, take a moment to read the article and I encourage everyone to weigh in with their thoughts:


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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1 thought on “Are Orchestra Still Being Dismantled?”

  1. My comment would be yes, it is still relevant more than three years later Drew.

    The problem that we are seeing in San Antonio is the unusual situation of the orchestra finally lining up with the positive growth found in the community. This is really the first time in who knows how many years that this has occured.

    It presents our current board and management with the delima of, “Do we go with the flow and energy that the community is producing or do we stay hunkered down and make damn sure we don’t create another deficit”.

    When you have the poiticians knocking on your door basically offering to help you get out of a situation that has had a strangle hold on your organization for the past eighteen years (i.e., our hall), you would think it would be time to make some serious plans for the future. But when organizations that have had the past history of many of our peer, mid to lower level orchestras, I think the boards even though they may be energized with new membership still carry a good bit of the past snake bites making it difficult for them to be forward thinking.

    All we can do in SA is hope that the economic energy in the community can overpower the caution of the board. Nobody wants to see the orchestra go into debt again and our current buisness model certainly guards against that, but the past is very hard to shake off particularly when you were struggling to come out of bankruptcy only three years ago.

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Are Orchestra Still Being Dismantled?

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