Things That Make you Go “Buh?” NHMF

Thanks to an astute reader for posting a comment to yesterday’s article, pointing out an item of interest at the New Hampshire Music Festival (NHMF) website. The reader noticed that the NHMF website features a picture of Festival Director, Henry Fogel, on the home page along with a related press notice but there is no musician roster listed anywhere throughout the website. This touches on an old topic, dating all the way back to one of Adaptistration’s very first articles from 11/6/2003 titled I Go To The Symphony For Their Executive Director?

The topic has (unfortunately) become a staple of each year’s Orchestra Website Review installment that examines the best and worst elements from the respective review; in particular, the “Worst Of” category of “Narcissistic Executive Directors.” As stated in each year’s review article, the Narcissistic Executive Director syndrome is when orchestra executives feel compelled to post their pictures, biographies, or personal messages to patrons on the organization’s website when there is nothing beyond scant information about the musicians. Granted, there is absolutely nothing improper with posting biographical data, photographs, and personal messages from or about executives, but when those endeavors eclipse learning about the actual musicians it is time for the organization to reevaluate its priorities.

In the case of the NHMF website, the notice about Fogel on the home page certainly doesn’t fall under the precise parameters as those used for the Orchestra Website Reviews, but it is undoubtedly related. Furthermore, given the high degree of tension between the Festival’s leaders and musicians (as reported in the 1/11/2010 edition of the Boston Globe), promoting any member of the organization’s administrative team over and above institutional artists is puzzling.

In the same way there is nothing improper with posting biographical data, photographs, and personal messages from or about executives, there’s nothing improper with posting a news item about a member of the organization’s administration. However, the related political ramifications in this situation should have been abundantly obvious and options that wouldn’t inadvertently agitate an already antagonistic atmosphere should have been explored before the NHMF posted the notice at their website. At the very least, the notice should have been amended as the labor situation deteriorated.

In another place and time, perhaps this wouldn’t be such an issue. But the lesson to be learned here is that in a climate of highly charged labor relations, every orchestral organization would be well advised to take a second look at planned promotional material for red flags such as this before proceeding.

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.

Related Posts

Comments (powered by Facebook)

1 thought on “Things That Make you Go “Buh?” NHMF

  1. Mr. McManus,

    Thanks you for pointing out the faults with the NHMF website and the narcissism of the “Festival Director” and the “President” of the organization.

    I must further point out that throughout the web site there is no mention of the man who founded the festival, the person who built it from nothing, made it great and conducted it for many years: the revered former music director Tom Nee.

    On the “about us” page http://www.nhmf.org/aboutus/ there is a description of the beginnings of the festival in 1952. They mention “a young conductor and his orchestra” but don’t give a name or in any way talk about that leader’s “vision” in those days. This is a tremendous slight to Tom Nee and it is no coincidence that the present festival leadership waited till his death (in 2008) before they embarked on their plans to dismiss the orchestra. The page goes on about their “Vision for the Future” touting their plans for a concert hall, but makes no mention of any type of “artistic” goals for the organization.

    You mention that management should have been concerned with the “political ramifications in this situation should have been abundantly obvious and options that wouldn’t inadvertently agitate an already antagonistic atmosphere should have been explored before the NHMF posted the notice at their website.” What has become abundantly clear throughout this entire ordeal is that management doesn’t really care about the musicians or what they think. The only reason they changed their course was because of the monetary pressures that they felt.

    Having sat through meetings with David Graham and Henry Fogel, festival musicians have had first hand contact with their narcissism and dismissive nature. This all comes as no surprise to us.

    Jay Lichtmann
    NHMF musician since ’83

Leave a Comment

TWO WAYS TO SUBSCRIBE BY EMAIL:

Subscription Weekly
weekly summary subscription
Subscription Per Post
every new post subscription

Send this to a friend