“Thank You, Next!” Wait, Where Is Everyone?

Hot on the heels of the personnel drama at the Phoenix Symphony Orchestra (PSO), the organization has cancelled auditions scheduled for May, 2009 for three vacant positions. Earlier this week AFM Local 586, which represents the Musicians Phoenix Symphony, distributed a memo to orchestra musicians notifying them that due to concerns from fellow musicians, they have been in contact with the PSO to urge the organization to “either cancel May auditions or to notify each candidate of the possibility auditions may either be cancelled or no one hired, given the current fiscal situation.”…

where is everyoneIn order to clarify the status of upcoming auditions, I contacted Maryellen Gleason, PSO President & CEO, on 3/31/2009 and it appears the musicians’ concerns have been acknowledged. She confirmed that the organization has officially cancelled auditions.

“The orchestra committee chair spoke with [our General Manager] over the weekend but we had to wait until consulting with our music director before making a final decision,” said Gleason. “We made the decision today [3/31/2009] to cancel the auditions and we are in the process of notifying applicants and returning deposit checks.”

We made the decision today 3/31/2009 to cancel the auditions and we are in the process of notifying applicants and returning deposit checks.
"We made the decision today to cancel the auditions and we are in the process of notifying applicants and returning deposit checks." - Maryellen Gleason, PSO President and CEO

The canceled auditions included openings for second horn, bass trombone, and Associate Principal second violin. There is no information about whether or not the auditions will be rescheduled.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the memo from Local 586 made the rounds through official orchestra musician discussion boards and has even appeared at musician authored blogs including The Horndog Blog and Abu Bratsche. Both authors published the full memo and offered some insightful commentary with the former stating that if the auditions take place as scheduled, candidates would “be wasting both your time and money.”

The bigger picture here is the organization’s financial condition. Cancelling auditions is not something an orchestra takes lightly and is very unusual outside of labor stoppages or situations of force majeure. I’m sure we’ll be examining those issues in the very near future.

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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