A Clumsy Act Of Vanity

Still having an amazing time here at the National Arts Marketing project Convention and will write more about that later but I wanted to point out something that transpired over the weekend in Denver in what has to be a new benchmark for public ill will. The 11/13/2011 edition of the Denver Post published an opinion piece written by former Colorado Symphony Orchestra (CSO) board members Heather K. Miller and Bruce Clinton that does little beyond demonstrating why the institution is perhaps better off without them.

Reminiscent of “You didn’t break up with me, I broke up with you” teenage angst, the pair appear to be determined to demonstrate how little they know about the organization and the people they governed by demonstrating a lack of understanding about such elementary subjects such as the CSO musicians and their union are one in the same and espousing such odious misconceptions that musicians only work 20 hours per week.

But the question that should cross your mind at some point while reading this travesty is why Miller and Clinton would bother going to so much trouble. Simply put, they voluntarily left their positions as board members and that is unquestionably their right. They disagreed with how the labor dispute was beginning to unfold so they left; observers can argue the merits of that decision until the cows come home but it’s nothing more than an academic exercise since the outcome has no real impact on the CSO’s actual situation.

So what good can come from a letter like this? Miller, Clinton and the other board members who left no longer make decisions for the institution so their beliefs and perspective on institutional governance are now moot. Those responsibilities have been absorbed by others and going public with a letter like their without any clearly stated and defensible purpose is perhaps most likely to be interpreted as little more than a clumsy act of vanity.

Perhaps the lesson to be learned here is to use the Miller and Clinton letter as an example of how you shouldn’t behave.

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 “A Clumsy Act Of Vanity

  1. This ill advised op ed was preceded by this editorial in Friday’s Denver Business Journal.

    Labor contract at center of Colorado Symphony dispute
    Denver Business Journal
    by Neil Westergaard, Editor
    Friday, November 11, 2011, 3:00pm MST

    http://www.bizjournals.com/denver/blog/broadway_17th/2011/11/symphony-musicians-stubborness-caused.html?page=3

    Never ceases to amaze what passes for informed editorial in this town, never mind responsible journalism. Or are those both examples of oxymoron?

  2. “…appear to be determined to demonstrate how little they know about the organization and the people they governed by demonstrating a lack of understanding about such elementary subjects such as the CSO musicians and their union are one in the same and espousing such odious misconceptions that musicians only work 20 hours per week.”

    I’m sorry, but after reading Bruce Clinton’s bio and seeing ALL his Board memberships, no one can tell me he doesn’t know how symphony orchestras , and their unions, operate. Which, of-course, makes his behavior, and his motives, even more questionable.

    george brown

  3. Bruce Clinton knows well what makes for good music, and IMHO that is non-union music.
    That 10 million he gave the New World Symphony training orchestra was spent on a worthwhile project,
    but where will the NWS members go after the mandatory 3 year retirement from their free board and 600 dollars a month?

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