The Futility Of Words In The Face Of Artistic Poignancy…


By Jeff Stahler, originally published in the April 11, 2008 edition of the Columbus Dispatch

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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2 thoughts on “The Futility Of Words In The Face Of Artistic Poignancy…”

  1. It’s amazing how seeing this picture made me feel—sad, and heavy laden for the musicians and concert goers of Columbus. I had the pleasure of seeing them earlier this season, and enjoyed it thoroughly.

    When reading about all that’s been going on there, I’ve always felt annoyed and frustrated. Now I’m just more saddened over it than anything else.

  2. I echo the previous post and add that this cartoon, and the EXIT ONLY picture currently on the main page of Adaptistration accurately sum up the whole ordeal in a nutshell.

    On a much smaller scale, I experienced a similar debacle when a local orchestra which had existed for 47 years folded in the West valley of Phoenix. The board and a few key individuals had made up their minds months in advance to throw in the towel. The orchestra has recently risen from the grave, but the artistic standards are MUCH lower.

    My heart goes out to our colleagues in Columbus. Let’s hope that the community will see this for what it is – an outrage – and that they will rise to the occasion.

    I am heartened by the Maestro’s outspoken support of the orchestra. This is an extreme rarity in our business and Hirokami should be commended for his blunt, brave words.

    The graphic Bruce is referring to can be found here.

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