Audition At The O.K. Corral

On 5/27/2011, WQXR published an article by Corinne Ramey that examines when musician openings in orchestras go unfilled. Ramey does a great job at covering the issues related multiple season vacancies created by mutual agreement between the orchestra association and the musicians. At the same time, there are occasions when long term vacancies are the result of what are perhaps best described as the artistic equivalent of a Mexican Standoff…

Audition At The O.K. CorralIf you’ve been in this field long enough, you hear the stories about audition committees and music directors playing this game of artistic standoff and they almost always have far more to do with flawed relationships than anything of merit. One thing most people agree on is long standing vacancies, regardless the reasons, have a definite expiration date before they begin to inflict a negative impact on an orchestra’s artistic cohesion.

So not unlike any other temporary measure to help manage debt, leaving positions temporarily unfilled is certainly a useful limited use tool to manage crisis but it can quickly become more trouble than it’s worth if wielded by the wrong hands.

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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