Rethinking The Music Director Search Process

Since the unofficial theme for posts this week seems to be innovation (or lack thereof in some cases), it seems fitting to round things out by pointing over to a recent post from Ron Spigelman over at Sticks and Drones that proposes some interesting ideas about how to re-think the process of searching for a new music director…

thinkingAlthough certainly not a universal constant, more often than not once a music director announces he/she will be leaving a post, they pretty much check-out when not on the podium. This isn’t to say that the change in attitude is motivated by ill will; in fact, most conductors leave one music director post because he/she was offered a post at an orchestra with a longer season and greater responsibilities. As such, the natural tasks involved with the new position begin to pull the conductor away from the previous group.

Spigelman comes up with some thought provoking options and you should set aside some time to give them a read (although he credits me for some of this, he’s the one who is really developing the idea in specifics).

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 “Rethinking The Music Director Search Process

  1. I have been thinking recently that the search process for Pops directors needs more thought. Every symphony is set up, primarily through its musician hiring process, to succeed at classical music. However, we are not set up to play pops at a fundamental level. We charge just as much for the tickets and I wonder if this is an area we are failing in. I believe in most markets around the country we would be better served to invest in refining that side of our product.It seems that only in the largest markets with the richest orchestras can a music director make an outward difference through the core repertoire.

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