Perlman x 2

The Westchester Philharmonic’s recent decision to appoint Itzhak Perlman as artistic director received a double-dose of attention this week in the New York media. The New York Times published an article by Dan Wakin which examines Mr. Perlman’s trek toward a regular conducting gig. The other article was published as an opinion piece in Newsday by me and focuses on how Perlman’s appointment may influence the balance between regional orchestras in the New York area as well as give the Westchester Phil an opportunity to "Advance to Go"…

Most of the relevant points are in the Newsday article
but one worth additional examination is how the Westchester Phil will
approach strategic planning over the next year. For the most part,
Westchester is in a significant period of development and they stand to
undergo a significant amount of change in the period of one season.
They are transitioning out of a founder’s environment into one of
greater shared authority and responsibility. Add to that negotiating
the first collective bargaining agreement (CBA) with the musicians and
maximizing the launch of Perlman as artistic director and you have one
extraordinarily busy year.

Amidst this flurry of activity the administrative, board, and
musician leaders will have to work together to define a strategic
vision each constituency can rally behind if the organization stands to
capitalize on its potential. Consequently, the group will have to
remain vigilant against getting bogged down in details and one or two
individuals within the group will need to pop their head up from time
to time to make certain the group is staying on track.

Ideally, by the end of Perlman’s first season (2008-09) the group will:

  • Ratify a CBA that lasts as long as Perlman’s initial tenure
    (if 80+ percent of musicians vote in favor of the contract, even
    better).
  • Eliminate any accumulated debt and post a five percent surplus over their annual operating budget.
  • Sell 90 percent of all available tickets (to all concerts, not just the ones conducted by Perlman).
  • Receive outside validation for artistic accomplishments (not
    just reviews but recording and broadcast opportunities, commissioning
    projects, increased solicitation for artistic joint-ventures, etc.).
  • Approve a multi-year strategic plan.

Consequently, if they can keep that momentum going with a
detailed strategic plan which includes solid, quantifiable goals then
it is entirely feasible to expect that the organization could leap-frog
past other regional ensembles in their area such as the Long Island
Philharmonic. It will be fun to keep an eye on the group over the next
several years to see how things develop.

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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