If You Can’t Join ‘Em, Beat ‘Em

In an interesting turn of events in Charleston, one of the Charleston Symphony Orchestra (CSO) concert sponsors has decided to present a cancelled pops concert on their own. The First Federal bank will be presenting the May 1st Starlight Pops concert using members from the recently-suspended CSO under the director of Alex Agrest (CSO core member). First Federal is selling tickets directly through their website as well as at the gate on the day of the event…

According to Ryan Leveille, Players Association of the Charleston Symphony Orchestra (PACSO) Spokesperson and CSO Principal Percussionist, this is the first of what the players will hope to be several events geared toward presenting regularly scheduled CSO concerts that were canceled in the wake of the season suspension notice. Leveille said First Federal is using an existing CSO musician to serve as a contractor in securing the artistic services of CSO members and the orchestra is being billed by First Federal as the “
Starlight Pops Orchestra.”

“[First Federal] sponsored this event for several years and wanted to continue,” said Leveille. “[The musicians] were pleased to see a long time CSO sponsor take the initiative to present a concert directly.”

In addition to the pops concert, the CSO musicians are also donating their time to make sure a planned Youth Orchestra of the Lowcountry side-by-side concert goes on as scheduled on April 23. Since the youth orchestra is a self managed 501(c)3 separate from the CSO, Leveille said they are in talks to see about having that organization collect donations for a musicians’ relief fund during the April 23rd event.

When asked about relations with the CSO, Leveille remarked on the outstanding National Labor Relations Board complaint as well as verbal indication from CSO board that the musicians’ benefits will last through April, but will likely be cancelled after that. However, Leveille did say that they are awaiting written verification from the board on this matter.

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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