The Controversy In Cleveland Continues

Just in case you forgot about the legal battle between Cleveland Plain Dealer music critic Donald Rosenberg and the Cleveland Orchestra, The Cleveland Scene published a lengthy article about the latest developments in the ongoing drama. Written by Michael Gill and published on 5/5/2010, the piece begins with a picturesque description of Cleveland Orchestra music director, Franz Welser-Möst, giving a deposition under a “cold fluorescent light”…

Gill’s article does a good job at providing an overview of events that led to the impending trial which is scheduled to begin sometime in July, 2010. Of particular note is Gill’s account of testimony provided by Andrew Fischer, who served as Welser-Möst’s limo driver at the beginning of the conductor’s time with the orchestra.

In depositions, [Fischer] describes having heard loud, closed-door meetings between Welser-Möst and others, discussing what could be done about the critic.

He recalls another incident in which Welser-Möst got into the car and was “more upset than I’d ever seen him. He stated that he was upset because of a review written in The
Plain Dealer by Donald Rosenberg.” He remembers hearing the conductor declare that “Don doesn’t get it,” and that the critic will soon change his ways or find himself looking for another job.”

Gill also points out that Rosenberg is only seeking $25,000, a comparatively infinitesimal sum in light of lottery style court awards. Gill reports that some observers think the damages are a mere stepping stone to Rosenberg’s long tail view which might include a book detailing these events. Of course, there’s still time for both sides to settle before this goes to trial but if they don’t come to an agreement, the proceedings should make for some fascinating material not to mention the potential for groundbreaking precedence.

If nothing else, the scenario continues to serve as a valuable resource for the entire business on to build relationships and settle disputes. We examined those issues and more in two previous articles based on the Rosenberg/Cleveland Orchestra saga.

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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