Talking About The NYPhil On Soundcheck Today

I’ll be appearing today on WNYC’s Soundcheck
with John Schaefer at 2:00 p.m. ET to talk about the New York Philharmonic’s performance at North Korea’s East Pyongyang Grand Theater. Due to the time change the orchestra’s performance which took place this morning at 4:00 a.m. ET, won’t be hard in the U.S. until later this evening. Nevertheless, I hope we’ll have some word on how the event unfolded. Opinions on the NYPhil’s decision to include the stop in Pyongyang as part of their Asia 2008 tour has created an unusual rift in the worldwide cultural community, prompting some unusual coalitions of insiders who are doing everything from commending to condemning the NYPhil’s decision.

No doubt, this will be a fascinating discussion. If you live in the New York City you can tune listen via FM93.9 or AM820 and everyone outside of the NYC area can listen to the live program online at WNYC’s website. You can also listen to the segment using the audio player below (Joel Meyer’s begins the point-counterpoint segment approximately five minutes into the clip):

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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4 thoughts on “Talking About The NYPhil On Soundcheck Today”

  1. We should have learned our lesson by now!

    Cutting ourselves off from some nation that offends us is like children who get mad at a brother, sister, or playmate and refuse to talk with him/her. It’s childish. And it doesn’t work. In fact, it works to our detriment.

    For some fifty years we cut ourselves off from China. We knew nothing about the Chinese, how to interact with them, how to negotiate with them, their business practices, their needs, the opportunities offered by China, et al. So, as a result of our strategy, the dictatorial rulers were more easily able to strenthen control and implant themselves, the sleeping giant grew into a powerhouse, and — when China finally opened up to foreign interests — we had no standing with it, no influence, and had to get way back near the end of the line of those rushing to do business with them.

    Let me be specific: I’m not saying that we should have slavishly kow-towed to them (as we did to Nazi Germany when Hitler was gaining control); what I AM saying is that we should have maintained contact and gained whatever mutually advantageous benefits were possible.

    We tried to isolate Russia. When we finally did re-establish contact, they knew us better than we knew them, and they have been snockering us beyond belief ever since (even though our president met with the Russian dictator and proclaimed, “I have looked into his eyes” and know I can trust him).

    For about 50 years we have forbidden contact with Cuba. The Cuban people suffer, but the same people are still in power.

    It doesn’t work.

    So let us welcome all oportunities to relate to “rogue states,” do a risk/benefit study and, if the possible benefits outweigh the risks, go for it.

    I am sure that is what the NYPhil did and I congratulate it for the intelligent response.


  2. Awesome job today!You really did a fabulous job holding your position. I have to agree, the NYP did a great thing representing our country and music. While Norm was passionate, I disagree with the closed mindedness. Something has to start somewhere, and years from now we might be friends with N. Korea the same way we are with Japan.

  3. I was up about 4 am Central time and happened to turn to CNN. Much to my surprise, I found they were playing the live feed of the concert in Pyongyang to the US! The WHOLE thing! I got to see everything after the first movement of the Dvorak. What a nice experience!

  4. I have just listened to the broadcast. The Drew McM portion was logical, humane, and greatly to be admired.

    Unlike Drew, I have no respect for Norman Lebrecht and his comments did nothing to change my opinion.

    He talked about the propaganda aspects of the occasion and mentioned, in passing, Adolph Hitler and Nazi Germany. He does not seem to be aware of Hitler’s attempts to reap progaganda from Germany’s sponsorship of the Olympics. It was to be proof positive, and a celebration of, the superiority of Aryan youth to all other humankind and — to that end — there was extensive motion picture coverage of the games. But, in the end, one of the most-coveted games was won by a man who was not only American, but Negro to boot. The first thing anyone learns in studying public-information/attitude-change campaigns is that one out of ten work, eight out of ten don’t succeed, and one out of ten have an effect opposite of that intended. It’s a fact that I keep trying to draw to the attention of orchestras.

    NL also speaks of the NYP “blundering innocently” [I think those are his words] into this trap. AS IF! As if the trip would have been possible without extensive discussion amongst all parties concerned, including some higher echelons of the US Goveernment.

    NL cites the sanctions against South Africa as evidence of the success of this ploy. I would like to see some evidence to show that the sanctions had ANY affect in this regard.

    There seemed to me to be some degree of contradiction in NL’s comments from what he has written in the past and, in fact, from what he was saying from moment to moment to moment. For example, hasn’t he previously proclaimed the inevitable death of the symphony orchestra? It is therefore contradictory to oppose such a newsworthy opportunity for the NYP. He does not seem to perceive that the occasion is even more of a propaganda victory for the NYP than it is for the RNK — if it is, indeed, at all the latter.


    Thanks for the kind words and points Paul. I do want to say that regardless of the fact that Norman and I had different points of view on this topic, I do respect Norman and think he is s well spoken on the topic of classical music. As a child of the Cold War myself, I would be happy to see the NYPhil trip ultimately marginalize some of the cultural disconnenct my generation has experienced with those on the other side of the Iron Curtain.

    Dictators come and dictators go and once the North Korean regime has gone the was of Stalin I hope we’ll be able to do a better job at building bridges immediately after the walls tumble. ~ Drew McManus

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