Auld Lang Syne Meme Of Three

Inspired by Bill Eddins over at Sticks and Drones where he posted a laundry list of wishes for 2011, I wanted to take a moment to kick off an Auld Lang Syne Meme of Three for 2011 (orchestra stakeholder edition)…

If I could grant three wishes for Orchestra Managers…

  1. I would make everyone else who isn’t an orchestra manager understand and appreciate what they do.
  2. I would give them the tools they need to realize their potential.
  3. I would help them see the damage they do to the business as a whole by buying into too much conventional wisdom and ladder climbing.

If I could grant three wishes for Orchestra Boards…

  1. I would instill renewed commitment and energy.
  2. I would grant them the ability to design and implement a meaningful executive review process.
  3. I would give them the ability to see that “tough decisions” are not synonymous with mortal budget cuts.

If I could grant three wishes for Orchestra Musicians…

  1. I would help every 20 and 30 something understand how and why the quantity and quality of today’s orchestra jobs came to be.
  2. I would give them the ability to push back the seemingly endless tide of apathy.
  3. I would help “that guy/girl” stop looking like a slob at rehearsals and concerts.

If I could grant three wishes for Orchestra Patrons…

  1. I would help them take several friends to a concert.
  2. I would give them the inspiration to speak out on behalf of their performing arts organizations at every possible opportunity.
  3. I would give them the ability to refrain from dropping programs during concerts.
  4. BONUS: I would make average ticket prices 50% lower.

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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6 thoughts on “Auld Lang Syne Meme Of Three

  1. Drew,

    As a young musician on the audition circuit, I would love to hear more about your first wish for orchestra musicians. Have you written anything about this? Also, can you clarify on the endless tide of apathy? Thanks!

  2. I totally agree, although as an ex-executive director of an opera company, as an ex-board member of an orchestra, my sincere and truly heartfelt wishes for at least certain board members are unprintable.

  3. Drew,
    Item by item I agree with what you wrote. I would distill my wish list down to an actionable plan to reach as big an audience as possible by any means necessary. Everything else falls in line behind that.

    Among all stakeholders, nailing down a common definition of success is surprisingly hard. But a genuine full house is one we can all agree on. We need to become more honest accountants of our actual accomplishments. Simply declaring something an artistic achievement can only be a metric reserved for rare events if there is little external evidence to support it.

    These institutions currently reach a lot of people but we need to do better. To achieve deeper roots in the community it will take more than new tools and an ad campaign. Our values need to be amended. If our mission were about putting on purposeful symphonic concerts free from artistic ideology for large audiences; I believe it would go a long way to combating the many ills you diagnosed.

  4. Thanks for your questions Matt, I wish they had answers that were simple enough to fit into the space of a reasonable comment reply but they are more involved than that. In the meantime, some of the best advice I can offer is for you to talk to as many professional orchestra musicians as possible. Start with veterans in both salaried and per service groups and work backward from there. Ask pointed questions about history and apathy.

    You should also pick up a copy of More than Meets the Ear: How Symphony Musicians Made Labor History by Julie Ayer.

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