Apparently, Philadelphia Is Out Of Alignment

Since next week features the 2009 Orchestra Website Reviews, it makes sense to fit in some time to examine the news out of Philadelphia about that orchestra’s new chief administrator. According to statements made by Philadelphia Orchestra board chair, Richard B. Worley, Allison Vulgamore will be taking over as the executive administrator on or about February 1, 2010…

out of alignmentDan Wakin at the New York Times wonders about events regarding the unsuccessful concert hall project from the end of Vulgamore’s tenure at Atlanta that failed to raise even half of the intended funds. Over at the Philadelphia Inquirer, Peter Dobrin reports that Vulgamore thinks the Philadelphia Orchestra is “fiscally more challenged than [she’s] seen any orchestra be.”

That’s a curious statement without additional qualifications in light of the fact that a number orchestras over the past several years have either gone out of business or made sizeable cuts in artistic activity due to economic problems. It seems more likely that this comment is referencing something more along the lines of the orchestra’s projected economic situation.

Vulgamore also hinted about what is in store regarding labor relations.

“We need to have a creative governance that aligns the board and the musicians and staff around a common focus going forward.”

Unless this quote is misrepresenting Vulgamore’s intent, it seems to imply that the organization’s stakeholders are not currently focused and the current model of governance is not creative and therefore inadequate. If you’re as anxious as I am to find out more of what’s in store to correct these perceived problems, February 1st can’t get here soon enough.

Until then, any guesses?

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 “Apparently, Philadelphia Is Out Of Alignment

  1. Vulgamore will be worth every penny if she succeeds in turning the situation around, but I hope she can define what success means. Her quoted comments about “align[ing]” competing views and the “lack of infrastructure around the business acumen” sound like blather to me. In fairness, I have heard worse from other executive types.

    Flippant bonus comment: With a name like Vulgamore, how many times has she been (or will she be) compared to a Harry Potter villain? The union locals should start working on the t-shirts and posters now just in case.

  2. No argument here abut the value of an executive based on quantifiable merit and accomplishments. What I’m curious about is whether or not those payoffs are being promised up front or if they will be performance based.

    Personally, I never thought about the Harry Potter connection until you mentioned it but I’m not exactly up on all things Harry Potter. Nonetheless, I certainly hope labor relations in Philly never degrade to the point of school yard antics.

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