Are You Suffering From Trombone Envy?

Holly Mulcahy posted what I thought was a fascinating article last week at The Partial Observer which examines how even professional orchestra musicians are sometimes unaware of the occupational pitfalls of their musician colleagues. The gist of the article is that a little knowledge goes a long way toward improved understanding and job satisfaction and that made me think about two specific issues…

First, imagine how much good could result from applying the basic
concepts from Holly’s piece into audience outreach programs. It just
reinforces the positive potential from increased patron/musician
interaction, which is an issue that has been examined here at
Adaptistration on numerous occasions.

Second, it makes me think about how much the standard
orchestra office worker knows about the musicians and vice versa. This
isn’t a new idea and I know of several groups that go to some effort to
help increase the interaction between musicians and administrators but
most of those efforts happen after some sort of contentious
labor situation (lockouts/strikes, numerous grievances, etc.). In these
cases it seems as though much of the potential good that can come from
these efforts is marginalized due to existing hard feelings.

Consequently, I’m curious to learn more about any efforts
orchestras use to increase interaction and appreciation between
musicians and administrators. For many organizations there are a number
of inherent barriers to natural interaction such as having the offices
located in a different building from where rehearsals/performances are
held. But even in situations where everyone is housed in the same
building, the offices and musician spaces are usually separated, not
out of any sinister design mind you but more out of design/space
necessities.

I know Disney Hall has come up with some interesting design
elements to help increase musician/administrator interaction but that’s
an exception and not the rule. As such, does your organization do
anything to help improve interaction between stakeholders? If so, does
it take place on a regular basis, did it develop organically, is it the
result of negative interaction, etc.? Have the outcomes improved
understanding and job satisfaction? Go check out Holly’s article if you haven’t read it already and send in a comment or email highlighting some of your observations and experiences.

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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