Compensation Déjà vu Philly Style

It is worth noting that the current brouhaha over the Philadelphia Orchestra Association’s (POA) decision to extend President and CEO Allison Vulgamore’s contract for three years along with a list of perks and restored bonuses isn’t the first time the organization caught heat over executive compensation. In 2004, the POA (led by former board chair Richard Smoot) decided to award then President Joe Kluger with a $10,000 raise while simultaneously cutting staff and pushing hard for musician concessions.

An article from that time which includes an interview with Joe Kluger details his rationale behind accepting the raise while justifying the other cuts and concessions. Keep in mind; this was 2004 amidst the growth years of the housing bubble and several years before the economic downturn.

In hindsight, and through the lens of today’s post bubble-burst standards, Kluger’s rationalization may appear to some as fairly insensitive and out of touch but jump forward several years and the decision making process throughout the POA’s executive board level doesn’t appear to have changed much from 2004.

It will be interesting to see if the judge overseeing the POA’s bankruptcy will take this sort of history into consideration when reviewing the terms of the latest executive compensation and benefits package.

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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