Tangling A Web

The 7/14/2009 edition of the New York Times published an article by Simon Akam that reports Leonard Leibowitz, long time counsel to American Federation of Musicians (AFM) Symphonic Services Division, to AFM Local 802 (New York), International Conference of Symphony and Opera Musicians (ICSOM), and to numerous orchestras around the country, was arrested and charged on 7/14/2009 with embezzling approximately $150,000 from a union representing dancers and stage managers at American Ballet Theater…

If convicted, this will be the first instance of a professional associated with a musicians’ union to be involved with embezzlement since Enex Steele was caught up in embezzling funds from the AFM Sound Recording Special Payments Fund in 2003 (an item we examined when it unfolded). The accusations against Leibowitz have yet to play out in court and although they don’t involve his work with the musicians’ union, the potential conviction stands to tarnish the accomplishments of a significant career.

Regular readers know that Leibowitz’s name has appeared in a number of Adaptistration articles whether it be a simple media reference or as an expert source on labor relations from the perspective of a professional with considerable experience representing musicians. I’ve enjoyed many conversations with him over the years as that sort of direct contact to so many segments of the business’ development who are willing to candidly discuss a wide variety of topics are difficult to find

Akam’s article doesn’t report on whether or not any timeline is in place for how Leibowitz’s situation will unfold but it does include a comment from Leibowitz’s lawyer, Stephen Flamhaft, saying “I think we will be able, after dialogue with the government, to resolve this.” In the meantime, we’ll have to watch and wait.

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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