Think Big

In November 2008, the Chicago Sinfonietta will partner with the Chicago Humanities Festival in musically exploring the year’s Festival theme: THINK BIG. For their part in the festival the Sinfonietta invited a panel of experts to help realize their "big idea" for a concert on November 10, 2008 by selecting the most transformative classical music compositions from various eras that truly changed the rules and affected everything that came after. I am honored to have been invited as one of their panel along with wonderful individuals such as writer Alex Ross and composer Michael Abels.

But the idea doesn’t stop with having a panel make suggestions and selecting the concert repertoire from that list; instead, the Sinfonietta has posted a poll allowing visitors to vote for the pieces the panel selected (and if you don’t like what we picked, then you can submit your own suggestions!). I always enjoy seeing ensembles find a way for patrons to have some input on repertoire and this project is just fun. The best part is that you don’t have to live in Chicago to vote, just visit the Sinfonietta polling page and cast your ballot. Hurry, the poll closes after July, 31, 2008.

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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1 thought on “Think Big”

  1. I took a look at the choices and I am so not voting. For one thing, where’s the reasoning for selecting each of those pieces? For another, I would have to be convinced that most of those pieces changed “changed the rules” for everyone ever after. Berlioz is sui generis; any of his pieces could have been listed, and it would hard to say for any of them exactly how they had changed the rules. See the long blogsopheric discussion last year about Minimalism, following the Times article, for Reich’s context. “Don Giovanni” is a great work and has inspired tons of commentary, but how exactly did it change anything? And what is “Sensemaya” doing in that company?

    Don’t forget you can write in your selections as well. I don’t know what there wasn’t more done with providing some additional info as to which selections each panelist offered and why, if anything I think that would have been fun to include.

    I do remember that blog thread you’re referring too and that’s one of the best things about the blogosphere: no matter how many times you have a discussion, it’s bound to pop up again in a different form with different perspectives from time to time. Not only does music evolve but how it is interpreted and enjoyed changes just as much, if not more.

    Regardless, I can also sympathize with the not voting perspective, I can’t rememebr how many times I’ve written in “no confidence” in lieu of voting for a candidate for government office. In those cases, I feel better about expressing my dissatisfaction with the choices offered as opposed to not having my voice heard (or ignored) at all.
    ~ Drew McManus

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