Another Sudden CEO Departure, This Time In Pittsburgh

Looks like the Colorado Symphony Orchestra isn’t the only group to pull a CEO quick-change before the season is half over. News started filtering out yesterday morning that the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra (PSO) simultaneously confirmed that Lawrence Tamburri would step down as president and CEO immediately and be permanently replaced by PSO board vice-chair James Wilkinson.

The 11/15/2011 edition of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review published a pair of articles by Mark Kanny that examine the events from the perspective of Wilkinson’s arrival and Tamburri’s departure. As with most events of this nature, details are slim (at the time this article went live, there were no press statements on the PSO media page) but what is worth noting is orchestras in this budget range don’t have a replacement CEO ready to go the moment one leaves without some prior planning.

In short, the board didn’t make a snap decision to put Wilkinson in place and Tamburri’s departure didn’t come in out of left field.

Anyone care to speculate?

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 “Another Sudden CEO Departure, This Time In Pittsburgh”

  1. Except a ‘replacement CEO’ in this case appears be an interim CEO – I’d be surprised if Wilkinson is quitting his day job to do this. If your board is big enough, there’s at least one businessperson on it who has light work commitments and who sees what a symphony CEO does and says, “anything you can do I can do better.” Most likely this is a normal topic of conversation at board cocktail parties.

    Disclaimer: I have not spoken with anyone at the Pittsburgh SO and have no inside information.

      • Well perhaps it is no coincidence that Tamburri resigned last week while just yesterday the NY Times published an article about how difficult a time the board of the NY Phil is having finding a replacement for Zarin Mehta. CEOs of the big five do not seem to be interested. Accordingly, sights have been set on the next rank order of US orchestras among which the PSO surely numbers. Not a big jump to complete this picture………

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