Seinfeld Was Onto Something

There’s something to be said for the Jerry Seinfeld model of leaving at the top of your game and yesterday’s announcement from the Seattle Symphony Orchestra (SSO) that music director Gerard Schwarz will step down after the 2010/11 season prompted quite a few email messages which referenced the Seinfeld model. However, given the lightning rod quality and quantity of attention the conductor has garnered over the past several years (much of which has been examined in previous articles), most of the email authors were wondering if Mr. Schwarz’s decision is a day late and a dollar short…

Nevertheless, the decision officially moves the institution into a
new period of planning and preparation for hiring a new music director;
and make no mistake, landing the music director gig at the SSO is an
extraordinary prize for any conductor. Consequently, the organization
is entering a period where the process they create and implement to
hire the new music director can go a long way toward healing old
wounds. So keep your eye on Seattle; it has the potential to become one
of the greatest case studies the business has seen in 30 years.

Postscript: local Seattle patrons are certainly full of opinions, which you can find as comments to the Seattle Post-Intelligencer article on the topic.

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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