NYCO Would Have Benefitted From The Walking Dead Triage Option

Yesterday’s news about the impending liquidation of the New York City Opera (NYCO) isn’t much of a surprise to anyone who has followed the group over the past several years. If anything, it might be curious to some why the group decided to prolong and even intensify its suffering and extend the misery to the field as a whole, not unlike a zombie shuffling around spreading fear and doom among arts org neighbors with each figurative bite.

ADAPTISTRATION-GUY-153The New York Times published an article by Michael Cooper on 9/29/2013 that sums up these sentiments.

To opera fans, the all-but-certain demise of City Opera portends a future with fewer choices and fewer off-the-beaten-path works. To arts administrators, it offers lessons in how a series of bad management decisions over the years could ultimately prove fatal. But to the singers and musicians who make up the backbone of the company, it would mean a loss of performing traditions, the disappearance of another company that gives performers work, and farewells to colleagues who have grown close over the years.

As it turns out, we examined the very scenario of favoring liquidation over a prolonged and ugly demise back on 11/21/2012 in an article titled Considering The Walking Dead Triage Option (it’s a short post that even has video so do take the time to give it a read). If nothing else, the NYCO mess only reinforces the value of that approach and supports the notion that potential is rarely missed by those willing to recognize and seize the opportunity.

Put another way, and to borrow from a popular proverb, art abhors a vacuum.

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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