Leadership Turnover In Louisville

The 1/13/2013 edition of the Louisville Courier-Journal published an article by Grace Schneider which reports two key leadership position changes at the Louisville Orchestral. CEO Robert Birman will be leaving his position February 1, 2013 and board president-elect Bill Lamb resigned from his position last week.

leaveBirman was at the center of a prolonged and particularly ugly labor dispute distinguished by the first ever attempt by a professional US orchestra to hire permanent replacement musicians during a work stoppage. Although auditions were advertised, the plan never materialized but details of the efforts were covered here in a series of articles.

Although the labor dispute was eventually resolved, there was no love lost between the musician employees and Birman is quoted in the Courier Journal article as expressing resolve for his approach and actions during the organization’s bankruptcy and work stoppage.

“It was painful…I absolutely feel we did the right thing,” [Birman] said. “I feel I could say…my work is done here.”

Louisville Orchestra musician spokesperson Kim Tichenor was quoted saying that the musicians “wish [Birman] well.”

However, additional insight from both individuals is available in an article by Erin Keane published in the 1/12/2013 edition of WFPL.org where Birman and Tichenor provide some softer corners to their sentiments.

“Now that we’re back on our feet and momentum is building again, it just feels like my work here is done and it would be healing for someone to come in without the baggage of the past to move this thing forward.” said Birman while Tichenor added “Despite our disagreements through the years, we always knew that Rob was acting in what he believed was in the best interest of the Orchestra.”

Of particular interest in the Courier-Journal article are quotes from retired San Francisco Symphony orchestra CEO Peter Pastreich, who is working for the orchestra as a consultant and mediator.

Patreich added that at times the people who steer an institution through a crisis “are not the same people who can take the next road and increase the income. I think Rob and the board see that”

At the time this article was published, there was no information about the resignations at the orchestra’s website nor did it provide any information about a subsequent search or interim appointment.

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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