A Busy Weekend

Where to start? Work this weekend prevented any effort to write something in depth about what has been going on so instead, here’s an overview of events throughout the business from the past few days and what’s in store this week…

  1. In Shreveport, the musicians of the Shreveport Symphony rejected a negotiation offer from the board which contained provisions to cut the 24 full time musicians and reduce their annual compensation from $12,693 to $3,123 for the 2008/09 season. In a press release, the
    musicians cited record breaking Gala ticket sales and a continued resolve to reject any offer that “intends to dismantle the current
    structure of the orchestra and create an unacceptably low pay structure.” More info is available in an excellent Shreveport Times article by Donecia Pea.
  2. In a stunning move, the Greater Columbus Arts Council (GCAC) recommended no longer funding the Columbus Symphony Orchestra (CSO).
    According to an article in the Columbus Dispatch, the GCAC gave the CSO $261,417 last year. In the same article, the CSO’s executive director, Tony Beadle, was quoted saying the decision “sends a message of nonsupport to the community.” However, in a Dispatch article from the previous day reporting efforts by public groups to raise money for the CSO Beadle was quoted as saying “At the end of the day, people have to understand that we’ve got a huge dinosaur here that has to be fed 500 bales of hay a day.” Is anyone else getting a mixed message?
  3. Fortunately, there was a bit of good news in the Honolulu Symphony’s $1.175 million gift which allowed the organization to catch up on several weeks of back pay to musicians and staff. Given that the end of the organization’s season ended on Sunday they should now be in
    position to recoup and focus on selling subscriptions and refining board development efforts.

In non-negotiation, non-crisis related news Inside The Arts Podcasts published the second episode in its new series of music review podcasts, Because Shut Up, That’s Why! This episode, titled Silk Road Explorations with the Chicago Symphony features host Jason Heath and Lyric Opera of Chicago Orchestra musicians Frank Babbitt, Collins Trier, and John Rosenkrans. The episode has Jason’s freewheeling-always-fun personality all over it so it is worth your time. Click here to visit the podcast.

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 “A Busy Weekend”

  1. I had the same reaction when I read Tony Beadle’s quote in the ‘Columbus Dispatch.’ It appears that everyone — except the staff, board, and executive director — is at least trying to do something to save the orchestra. The subtext to Beadle’s comment was “thanks, but no thanks.” I do not think the current board and staff (at least the executive director) is very interested in continuing operations.

  2. Am I the only one who sees this “dinosaur” comment as nothing more than a poor choice of words? Would it be more appropriate to use a gorilla or an elephant in the metaphor? The point is the CSO needs a lot of money and it needs it now.

    The fact that so many are taking this single quote out completely out of context, skittering off with it to the far corners of the Internet and taking cheap shots at the CSO staff is disheartening to me. It seems folks are more interested in laying blame than saving the orchestra.

    Thanks for the comment Mic, I would certainly agree that the dinosaur reference is not the best choice of words but something to keep in mind is during highly charged environments – such as what is being experienced in Columbus – an unfortunate choice of words can have far more impact than they would otherwise.

    Ultimately, with wordplay aside, the issue at hand is message being sent to patrons and audience associations attempting to raise funds. Perhaps if the CSO board spent more time praising those efforts and using them to demonstrate the board based support for the orchestra, the GCAC would not have made the decision to recommend suspending 08/09 funding. ~ Drew McManus

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