No! Don't Cut The Donkey Sketch

In case you thought the whole relevancy and identity crisis was something new to the business then allow me to direct you to a video clip from a Steve Martin NBC special that aired 30 years ago (the donkey bit shows up at 2:20).

If you take anything away from that clip, I hope it’s this: we’ll be better off with relevancy when we stop trying so hard and just learn how to laugh at ourselves.

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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0 thoughts on “No! Don't Cut The Donkey Sketch

  1. Interesting piece on the ‘relevance’ of classical music. Is classical music made relevant by making fun of itself, or by being made fun of by others. Or does classical music simply need to make it self relevant by just being relevant. Has classical music taken on the persona of the ‘class clown’ I will make them laugh so people will like me?
    A large barrier to entry for classical music is that peoples perception is of a very stuffy high brow thing they would feel uncomfortable about being involved with. I am just not sure that mocking classical music helps to bring down that barrier to entry. Having said that I find almost anything Steve Martin does as funny!

    • Thanks David, I think you sum up what I’m talking about here. This isn’t about making fun of classical music, it’s about the layers of boundaries the field doesn’t even recognize as the result of a stereotypical elitist attitude. Adopting the ability to laugh at ourselves (and yes, even laugh at a good joke made at our expense) begins to tear down those walls and all of the related barriers that go along with it.

      In this case, ask yourself why you think Steve Martin’s piece was mocking classical music (and why would the American String Quartet have gone along with it and even list it as a career highlight at their website)?

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