Honesty: the best of all the lost arts.*

In a business as comparatively small and collegial (at least on the surface) as the orchestra business, it’s tough to find someone who isn’t afraid to speak honestly and from the heart about sensitive topics. Fortunately, we’ve got someone like Bill Eddins to point out the Emperor isn’t wearing any clothes.

Case in point, Eddins’ 2/12/2012 blog post at Sticks and Drones which presents a very candid overview of the ongoing New England Conservatory of Music (NEC) bugaboo along with his assessment of what needs to be done in order to marginalize the damage and begin moving on.

In order to bolster his points, Eddins provides a comparative analysis between the recent Susan B Komen Cancer Foundation incident (details) and the NEC-Zander ordeal. His conclusions are simple, yet profound, and since there’s no fun in spoiling the surprise you should head over and read it firsthand.

Read Eddins’ article

*Mark Twain; Notebook, 1902

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 “Honesty: the best of all the lost arts.*

  1. We often forget that playing politics is a rough & tumble sport, especially for 501(c)3 nonprofit organizations. The temptation to score political points, if at all, must be carefully weighed against unknown or sleeping forces that are just as willing to strike back.

    It’s impossible to measure the collective, negative sentiment that is now turning on NEC, but I do know that Tony Woodcock was deliberately drawing the ire of union members when taking sides in the Detroit Symphony strike back in February of 2011, e.g. “we need to tear up all those restrictive collective bargaining agreements and create a context of flexibility and trust.” http://necmusic.wordpress.com/2011/02/24/a-way-to-move-forward/

    Woodcock pressed on with every opportunity to showcase his hardened views against union musicians. Another striking example was his May 3, 2011 live webcast on WQXR in New York: http://www.wqxr.org/#/articles/wqxr-features/2011/apr/18/american-orchestras-endangered-species/

    Whether his students and the public welcome his comments or not, the fact remains that Tony Woodcock chose to place himself on an abrasive, national stage. I for one wouldn’t have known who he was or what he stood for until he made a point of telling us all.

    As Mr. Woodcock puts it, “We need as a guiding principle to give musicians ownership over the great and potent possibilities that are obscured by union negotiations and ossified agreements.” If nothing else, NEC’s way forward is readily found in Tony Woodcock’s own beliefs since the same rules [or lack thereof] obviously apply to him.

    Pete Vriesenga,
    President, Denver Musicians Association

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