You Can Always Find A Distraction If You’re Looking For One

Amid the Sarah Chang/Detroit Symphony Orchestra (DSO) drama, it can be easy to forget that it’s a smaller part of a bigger issue; specifically, the ongoing DSO work stoppage. To be certain, any messages sent to Sarah Chang that were threatening and/or intimidating have hopefully been passed along to authorities. Clearly, those are sober issues but they shouldn’t detract attention from the broader concerns…

Case in point, the New York Times published an article on 10/11/2010 by Dan Wakin that examines Chang’s situation with additional input from DSO president Anne Parsons and reactions from Haden McKay, DSO cellist and the musicians’ spokesman, plus Karl Pituch, DSO principal horn.

An item of note in the article is Parson’s allusion to future concert events that might require artists to cross the musicians’ picket line.

Ms. Parsons said other important artists had offered to play under the Detroit Symphony’s auspices. But she declined to name them, and said she did not know when an announcement would be made.

Undoubtedly, this would stir up much of the same discussion that surrounded the cancelled Chang recital and if it follows the same progression, it will end with representatives from both sides spending more time talking about issues that have little or nothing to do with what’s most important.

Granted, it is common for both sides in a labor dispute to twist the other’s tail but in the age of hyper scrutiny and instantaneous communication, it is important to remember that all of the little tail twisting tactics are still just that: tactics in a much larger clash. In the end, they shouldn’t distract attention away from the core issues which ultimately determine the long term position of the institution.

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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