Concentrated-Dose Strength Adaptistration

Before he became president and CEO of the Philadelphia Orchestra, Jim Undercoffler was Dean of the Eastman School of Music. And before he moved from one position to the other, the folks at had Jim sit down with me to host a video interview. Although the interview actually took place almost two years ago, I recall the discussion being frank and invigorating not to mention I had a great time. In short, Jim was a great interview host.

That 38 minute interview is now available at the website in nice bite-sized chunks, each focusing on a wide range of topics from labor relations, what’s good and what’s not-so-good in the business, instinctual behavior, the real value of collective bargaining agreements, the politics inside the business, my overall impression of American orchestras, and much, much more…

I’m still getting through all of the video clips myself, but it has been fun to see the footage again after so much time has passed, however, keep in mind due to its age some of the events Jim and I are talking about have since changed. For example, during several points in the interview we talked about the Nashville Symphony and at the time when this was recorded they not yet moved into their new hall or even completed the capital campaign to pay for it. However, that orchestra has since completed a successful inaugural season and exceeded their fundraising goals.

The good news is that these ripples in continuity won’t detract from your overall enjoyment. In fact, the video interview format is like experiencing a concentrated dose of blog-strength Adaptistration.

One of my favorite bits, which I had forgotten about, is when Jim and I are discussing the qualities in a good executive manager and how that individual should function within an orchestral organization:

JU: Do the headhunters call you to ask for your recommendations?
DM: No.
JU: I’m going to make sure they start doing it.

You can watch the conversation at’s interview page or just click the pic below to go directly to the video clips:


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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Concentrated-Dose Strength Adaptistration