Jacksonville CEO Resigns

According to a report published online at the Jacksonville Times-Union by Roger Bull, Jacksonville symphony Orchestra CEO, Alan Hopper, has resigned and plans to officially step down within the next few months…

According the Times-Union report, the organization’s board chair stated that “at this critical time, the Executive Committee determined that new, fresh leadership would give the association the greatest chance for success in the years ahead.” It isn’t unusual for executive administrators to depart around periods of contentious labor relations; one of the most recent examples was from 2006 where Scott Provancher stepped down as Louisville Orchestra executive director amidst a bitter labor dispute.

It is difficult to miss the parallels between those two organizations, in both cases the executive board leaders excluded artistic stakeholders while developing a strategic plan which ultimately concluded that the musicians accept significant long-term reductions in compensation or the organization would be forced to suspend operations. The resulting events wrecked havoc on both institutions and now an almost identical situation is developing in Columbus. It brings to mind the following quote: “History repeats itself, first as tragedy, second as farce.” – Karl Marx

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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6 thoughts on “Jacksonville CEO Resigns”

  1. The key line in this whole tragedy, as well as all those that have preceded and (unfortunately) will succeed it, is “…executive board leaders excluded artistic stakeholders while developing a strategic plan…”.

    The LAO (aka ASOL, aka “The League”)should stress that point to all aspiring arts administrators. Most probably, that organization will only shuffle Mr. Hopper to another orchestra. They have a pattern of moving failed executives from orchestra to orchestra so no one organization can monopolize dysfunction. At least they can claim success in one area.

  2. The Board is using Hopper to cover the fact that they are equally responsible for the deficit and the conditions which led them to the unnecessary
    “lockout” of the musicians. The Executive Board and the President of the Board should also resign.

    Jacksonville is in love with mediocrity, however, and whoever Hopper’s replacement is will be someone who will not challenge this Board.

    It will certainly be interesting to watch the search process unfold. ~ Drew McManus

  3. The irony of the whole thing was that Alan was smelling like roses a few years ago with the JSO posting back to back years in the black. The idea to move the numbers around right before negotiations so the situation looked really bad turned out to be the final
    nail in the coffin for Hopper. I’m not an expert on the JSO situation, but I would of liked to have seen how much of the good years was acutally because of Mr Hopper, versus how much of this “dire situation” was fabricated by the board.

    Lets hope they do the next right thing in Jacksonville and make Van Vleck walk the plank too, his leadership is failing. It is time for the experts on the Exec. board to own up and get this ship moving in the right direction!

  4. I’m not sure you can lump Jacksonville in with Louisville or Columbus. Both Louisville and Columbus have had decades of wobbly finances. Jacksonville has shown fairly steady operations and good community support.

    My understanding is that JAX had been doing better as well but that makes it even more curious as to why their board decided to follow a similar strategic process (which arrived at similar conclusions) as Louisville (and now Columbus). ~ Drew McManus

  5. What makes the Hopper firing so interesting is that in the Spring, he and Fabio Mechetti’s salaries were given a big increase. If Hopper was so valuable in the Spring, how can he be where he is now? I think, whether he is to blame for the problems, and I believe he bears a certain share, the Executive Board and its Chairman, Van Vleck, are denying their role in all this, and should resign, too.

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