Clearly, I Am In The Wrong Business

According to an article by Peter Dobrin in the 7/27/2011 edition of the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Philadelphia Orchestra Association (POA) is claiming to have spent approximately $2.4 million in bankruptcy related expenses. But according to Dobrin’s report, that doesn’t really bother the POA as the orchestra spokesman, Matt Broscious, defined those expenses and any to follow as “onetime, short-term costs” that are necessary to put the organization back on good financial footing.

Here’s a quick overview of the Inquirer’s take on the money trail:

  • $1.05 million to the legal firm handling the bankruptcy (whose chairman is also an orchestra board member).
  • $833,365 to the LLC serving as the POA’s bankruptcy advisor.
  • $203,616 in labor lawyer fees.

In order to provide some perspective on this figure, consider this: the POA’s current bankruptcy related expenditures now exceed the $2 million community outreach deal breaker that contributed to much of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra’s work stoppage.

In other POA related news, today marks the scheduled hearing on the Philadelphia Orchestra musicians’ demand to perform a fine tooth comb review of the orchestra’s records related to the endowment and the musicians’ pension. Although based on the scope of the proposed review, it might be better defined as an evaluation with a lice inspection comb. Certainly, they have no intention of leaving any stone unturned.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the POA adamantly insists that such a review would saddle the institution with an undue burden and filed an official objection with the court in response to the request. We’ll have to sit back and see if the court renders any decisions on the matter.

Given the money gushing out of the institution related to bankruptcy costs, are the POA’s objections reasonable? Are musician concerns about their pension and the orchestra’s endowment justified? What do you think?

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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