A Breath Of Fresh Air From Nashville

Amidst all the lowest common denominator labor disputes over the past several years, it feels like a genuine reprieve to watch things unfold at the Nashville Symphony Orchestra (NSO) where the organization is navigating difficult financial issues with lenders while simultaneously entering into a collective bargaining agreement negotiation. If it were just about any other group, those two occurrences would all but assure an ugly Detroit style institutional evisceration.

ITA-GUY-088Fortunately, Nashville is setting a much different tone.

The 4/1/2013 edition of the Nashville Business Journal published an article by Jamie McGee that focuses on what borders on cheery NSO labor relations.

In a statement today, the musicians association described its relationship with the symphony staff and board as “enviable” compared with other symphonies and said it does not plan to publicly discuss its financial negotiations until a conclusion is reached on the symphony’s refinancing plan.

“We realize that we will not escape a discussion about the current economic position, but we will do so in a professional, respectful and considerate manner behind closed doors,” the association said in the statement.

It was a pleasure talking to McGee about just how beneficial it is for orchestras in today’s operating environment that invested in developing positive labor relations based on mutual earned respect and I hope this is something the traditional media continues to follow.

At the same time, everything will continue to unfold in its own way and there’s no way to accurately predict where it will end up. Nonetheless, the NSO is certainly better off for cultivating stakeholder relationships and it is a relief to see an institution resist the easy way out by taking the fight internal.

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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2 thoughts on “A Breath Of Fresh Air From Nashville”

  1. I realize Nashville has a pretty good recent history of respect and cooperation between BOD, mgmt and musicians however they might have picked a date other than 4/1 to issue their press release. Someone like myself who has been in organizations that are “lacking” in said level of respect, might read something into that release date. 😉

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