If nothing else, this season has been one of reflection but one of the more tiring discussions is whether or not the arts add value to society. Of course they do, but it seems that a society which enjoys a high standard of living can forget all too easily just how important the arts are beyond the realm of live performance…

My recent trip to Nepal as part of the HEARTbeats Foundation served as a profoundly meaningful experience with regard to reaffirming the transformative power of music and art. I posted more about this at the Foundation’s Nepal blog and I hope you take a moment to head over and give it a read.

In the meantime, take some time to reflect on the year and the seasons ahead. Why do you think the arts matter? What is your purpose in this business?

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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2 thoughts on “Purpose”

  1. Apropos of this inquiry is David Brooks’ book review/op-ed in today’s NY Times. He critiques a recent book by Hubert Dreyfus and Sean Dorrance Kelly called “All Things Shining” (to be added to my reading list!). Brooks focuses on the human drive toward transcendent experiences, especially those that are collective. Here is my favorite bit and one that I think speaks to the importance of symphony orchestras, among other collective institutions (as a staunch unionist, I’d include unions in that list):

    We have official stories we tell about our culture: each individual is the captain of his own ship; we are all children of God. But in practice, willy-nilly, the way we actually live is at odds with the official story. Our most vibrant institutions are collective, not individual or religious. They are there to create that group whoosh: the sports stadium, the concert hall, the political rally, the theater, the museum and the gourmet restaurant. Even church is often more about the ecstatic whoosh than the theology.

    Full op-ed at: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/12/31/opinion/31brooks.html?_r=1&hp

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