The 2/1/2013 edition of the Denver Post reports that Colorado Symphony Orchestra (CSO) CEO Gene Sobczak has decided to leave the organization. Sobczak leaves the position after stepping in for one year following the ugly and very public board split led by former CSO board chair and current League of American Orchestras board officer Bruce Clinton.
The Post article, by Ray Mark Rinaldi, reports that the CSO will fill Sobczak’s position with the unorthodox solution of having current board co-chair Jerome Kern step in as a permanent CEO. According to the article, it appears as though Kern may not draw an annual salary for his administrative position.
A CSO press release from 1/31/2013 states that Kern will “serve as CEO and continue as co-chair of the association.”
It will be interesting to see how the arrangement serves the institution and although it is decidedly unusual, it may be the best solution, especially if Kern was already heavily involved in board development, fundraising, and strategic planning.
If the orchestra benefits from the presence of strong VP level administrators capable of absorbing some additional slack without overloading their current responsibilities, then the organization may thrive under this arrangement.
Some of the more obvious bear traps the CSO will need to avoid include the potential for becoming gradually more insularly as a result of the shrinking pool of executive governance members (Kern’s wife will continue to co-chair the CSO board). In short, too much power in limited hands increases institutional risk but it can also increase the potential for stability via increased efficiency and personal responsibility.
In the end, success will be determined by whether or not the CSO’s current challenges can be best served by this arrangement and if those in control are ideally suited for this unique set of tasks; if so, expect subsequent stability to be followed by parity minded growth. Beyond that, the next problem is recognizing the point where shifting governance back to a more traditional separation of duties and broader oversight is the best option for maintaining institutional harmony. Then again, given the CSO’s recent history, those would be good problems to have.