So Many Comments About Detroit

I know, I know, I keep promising my big post but something keeps popping up that catches my interest that I want to post about first. Perhaps it’s some new form of Blogging Adult ADD (BAADD?). Regardless, the first item I want to point out are a pair of articles over at Sticks and Drones from conductor Bill Eddins who has a lot to say about the situation…

The initial post, Strike Two!, apparently generated enough rancorous comments that Eddins had to put down his virtual foot. But that pales in comparison to his second installment, The Importance of Being Ernest…¸which generated quite a few comments in its first 24 hours, some of which were from Detroit Symphony musicians. Not one to back down from having ideas challenged, Eddins has been responding to a number of comments.

I debated on whether or not to even mention the other item but after a few dozen email messages asking “did you see…” it seems worthwhile to mention it. The “it” in question is an article by Terry Teachout in the 9/18/2010 edition of the Wall Street Journal. This is the second unfortunately misinformed piece from Teachout on the business of orchestras, the other being his piece from 6/12/2010 which skewers the relevance of regional orchestras. Typically, Teachout is a very thoughtful, big picture observer but these two articles are decidedly off in left field when compared to his usual perspective.

Teachout’s first piece garnered a great deal of ire throughout every stakeholder group in this business but given the labor tinged elements surrounding Detroit, I don’t expect to see the same sort of unified reaction. But then again, I’ve been wrong before. I’d take the time to address some of Teachout’s misinformed points but frankly, it just isn’t worth the time since the apparent foundation for his conclusions is so flawed, it makes the entire endeavor an exercise in futility.

Update: Another post went up today from Barry Johnson worth pointing out over at arts dispatch, The Detroit Symphony: We disagree with more experts.

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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4 thoughts on “So Many Comments About Detroit

  1. Thanks for the mention+link. I’m in total agreement with you about the Teachout article, which was so bad I didn’t know where to begin. I’ve ripped him fairly recently for other sins, and it’s starting to feel like: Fish. Barrel.

  2. You’re welcome, it has been very interesting to see your outlook on the Detroit situation evolve and having a written record with this much detail is a rare but unique resource.

  3. For a long respected writer in a major national publication, the sloppy misinformation in Teachout’s column is stunning. Just two examples: while it’s true that the population within the Detroit city limits has declined to around 800,000, the metro area from which the DSO draws the bulk of its audience is well over 4 million.

    More to the point, many of the really big donors, folks who pony up several million bucks apiece, are not regular concert goers. They give simply because they realize the importance of this orchestra to Detroit.

    Without question, we’re in crisis on several fronts here in Detroit. But that column’s facile descent into stereotypical Detroit bashing is disingenuous. If the Philharmonic was dependent solely on the support of NYC’s unwashed masses for survival they’d go bust by the end of the week.

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