The Funny Side Of Apathy

Ah, apathy. At times, it seems like the evil grease that keeps the gears of this business grinding but that doesn’t mean it can’t be entertaining. Case in point, fellow arts management blogger plank owner Andrew Taylor posted an article on 10/14/2009 pointing out the Bureau of Communication, a tongue-in-cheek organization on a mission to bring fill-in-the-blank business communication to the masses…

A copy of the form I composed to Andrew Taylor expressing gratitude for mentioning the Bureau of Communication
A copy of the form composed to Andrew Taylor expressing gratitude for blogging about the Bureau of Communication

Granted, the only forms currently available are geared toward generic corporate interaction but it doesn’t take much to imagine how these could be re-engineered for use in the orchestra business. There are options for every stakeholder:

Board members

  • Declaration of Bewilderment (just believe what the CEO tells you)
  • Statement of Abdication (why resign when it’s easier to simply stop caring?)
  • Intent to Renege on Pledge (after all, that’s why they’re called pledges)
  • Intent to Miss a Committee Meeting (we know you won’t show up anyway)
  • Engaging Consultant (because every board needs a scapegoat)


  • Grievance Retort (take your Article 5, Section 4 and shove it up your f-hole)
  • Filing an Unfair Labor Practice (you stink, but I love you)
  • Notice of Tenure (go ahead and tell your other orchestra to shove it)
  • Failure to Receive Tenure (you didn’t buy a house already, did you?)
  • Change in Programming (Berlioz Requiem costs how much?)
  • Notice of Late Payment (vendors know it’s coming anyway)
  • Notice of Artistic Budget Reduction (of course this won’t have any impact on artistic quality)
  • Notice of Lock Out (we were starting to like you too much)
  • Request for CBA Waiver (we know it’s the twelfth time this season but we really need this one)


  • Intent to Disregard Non-Artistic Responsibility (I already told you
    fundraising isn’t my problem)
  • Airing of Knowledge (how will the musicians know what to do if you don’t tell them)
  • Notice of Cancellation (because there’s always a better gig)
  • Request for Attention (why is the brass section not looking at me?)
  • Artistic Review Notice (I have a friend that needs a job)


  • Declaration of Unpreparedness (why wait for doubt to drop out?)
  • Submission of Unsolicited Artistic Criticism (because all of your fellow musicians are entitled to your opinion)
  • Declaration of Dissatisfaction (if you don’t complain, how will managers know what you think?)
  • Intent to Strike (here’s to another decade of hostile labor relations)
  • Observance of Sick Leave (there’s absolutely no coincidence that my illness coincides with a pops program)

Imagine how much time could be saved with a battery of fill-in-the-blank documentation at your disposal like this. I wonder if anyone has ideas for other forms…

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 “The Funny Side Of Apathy”

    • Holy caffeine Batman, you couldn’t find a way to buy me a coffee?!?! This is serious business Mary, dare I say a tragedy! It may even keep me up at night.

      Seriously though, thank you for the kind gesture and in the future, all you have to do do buy me a coffee is scroll down to the “Buy Drew A Coffee” widget in the left hand sidebar, select which size via the drop-down menu, then click the coffee cup and away you go to the paypal processing page 🙂

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