Fighting For Seats In Chicago

Who said classical music was dying? In Chicago, it looks like the Chicago Symphony Orchestra (CSO) with Riccardo Muti is such a big hit that the patrons are fighting for seats. In case you haven’t heard, a fistfight broke out in one of the boxes during last Friday’s concert. As reported by Stefano Esposito in the 3/9/2012 edition of the Chicago Sun-Times, the fight broke out between a man in his 30s and a 67-year-old man.

The article, which has been shared on Facebook in excess of 2,000 times, reports that the altercation didn’t stop the performance but did leave the older man with a cut on his forehead. Since that article, Google reports nearly 300 news articles about the event and one of those is from the Chicago Tribune’s John von Rhein which includes an interview with CSO music director Riccardo Muti who was conducting that night and was toward the end of the Brahms’ Symphony No. 2 when the fight broke out.

By all reports, Muti handled the event without adding any undue attention to the events in the box.

The scuttlebutt here in Chicago indicates that like many stories which end in a fight, it started with “Well, we were drinking…” At the present it is unknown if the older patron will press charges and the younger man has yet to be identified.

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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