In Richardson, To Tell Or Not To Tell (Again)

The recent conductor rant from the Richardson Symphony Orchestra that was caught on tape has produced an intriguing comment thread. One item that caught my attention was the notion that the group has been wrestling with their cash flow issues for some time and the decision as to whether or not this should be brought to public attention is one of the reasons for discord. As it turns out, this very topic was the source for one of my blog posts back in November, 2004…

Entitled To Tell Or Not To Tell, the article examined the potential merits and pitfalls associated with announcing institutional money woes. Consequently, it seems the Richardson Symphony has been struggling with this issue for several years now and recent events add a noteworthy asterisk to the suggestions from 2004: just because a group decides to keep money woes under wraps doesn’t mean it will stay that way.

In Richardson’s case, a subsequent series of delayed payments prompted musician stakeholders to take matters into their own hands. As such, it would be good for groups to consider that even though it may be contrary to previous policy, there may come a time when going public in a way that allows you to control the tone and language of the message about money woes is the lesser of two evils when compared to letting someone else do it for you.

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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1 thought on “In Richardson, To Tell Or Not To Tell (Again)”

  1. Orchestras have typically held information closely for the issues you identified so many years ago, Drew. With the circulation of the Richardson Symphony Orchestra audio, social media broke through that control for better or worse. A book to be released May 24, Charlene Li’s Open Leadership, maps the way to manage openness relative to social technology and a whole enterprise. Increased transparency will bring rich benefits, yet orchestras will be wise to set boundaries with blogging policies and the like. I and many others have reviewed this important book online.

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