Wanted: A Messiah In Cincinnati

The 11/4/2007 edition of the Cincinnati Enquirer published an article by Janelle Gelfand which took a hard look at the ongoing process to find a new Dean for the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music (CCM). The revealing article examines the challenges and outlines the critical value in filling this position with the right person…

It is refreshing to see so much gritty detail and attention focused on finding a leader for CCM, one of the United States’ major music conservatories. Initially, you may not think that finding a conservatory Dean has very much to do in the here-and-now with orchestra management; however, take a closer look and you can see just how critical the position at CCM is for the entire field (along with all of the other major U.S. conservatories and schools of music).

Overall, the business remains firmly entrenched in a period of change, one which is far more accelerated than previous decades, thus allowing greater opportunity for exploring new ideas. Combine that with record high numbers of graduates leaving conservatories and schools of music and you can begin to see where those who control the philosophical principles which develop academic training can have an enormous amount of influence on the how this business will evolve.

If you have any doubts as to how this issue is increasingly influencing the filed directly, just look at the number of high profile schools have poached leading figures within the business: New England took Minnesota Orchestra’s CEO and Curtis took Philadelphia Orchestra’s principal violist.

As such, it is wonderful to see Janelle Gelfand and her editors at the Enquirer dedicate so much space toward keeping the light of public attention squarely focused on the issue of CCM’s search process. Furthermore, the article has one of the best attention grabbing openings I’ve read in a long time:

“Job description: Someone who can raise CCM’s profile while raising millions of dollars for critical endowment money, and then raise tens of millions more for the university campaign; who can keep program quality high during a stringent cost-cutting period; fill up to nine key faculty posts; incorporate new technologies; and guide a possible major reorganization of the college for the first time since 1962.

A visionary. An administrator. Or, in the words of interim dean Warren George, “somebody to walk on water.” “

With an opening like that, how could you not continue reading?


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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