Ignorance Is Bliss (not to mention value added)

My blogging colleague, Joe Patti, posted an intriguing article on 3/4/2014 about his surprise over the job description for the Ohio Arts Council’s (OAC) deputy director opening; in particular, he was taken aback by the lack of arts-centric requirements.

ITA-GUY-090At the same time, Patti defines his working relationship with OAC as top notch and acknowledged being comfortable with the idea that if the existing employees were cultivated using similar job descriptions that not only placed less emphasis on arts related requirements but focused instead on medical and social services experience, then so be it.

I’m very curious to see if the OAC responds to Patti’s post or if Patti publishes any sort of update. In the meantime, the whole thing reminded of a post here published nearly a decade ago titled Knowledge Of Music Helpful, But Not Necessary, which covers some of the same ground as it relates to crafting job descriptions for arts administrator openings.

But I’m curious to know more about what you think, are certain positions inside an orchestra’s administrative offices better served by requiring minimum levels of musical knowledge (beyond obvious positions in the artistic department); are some positions black and white while others varying amounts of gray?

Take a moment to send in a comment with your thoughts and observations.

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 “Ignorance Is Bliss (not to mention value added)”

  1. I don’t really expect a response from the OAC since I am pretty sure they don’t have a choice about using that description. It is basically the result of the government trying to bundle descriptions into groups. When I was working in Hawaii, my technical directors were classified as Printing and Publications specialists or something similar even though their job requirements focused on construction and wiring up lighting instruments.

  2. I’m all for people in arts-related jobs bringing diverse work and educational experience to the table — but they tend to do that almost by definition, as a result of doing work that draws on history, culture, politics, business, etc. I find that most artists — performing artists in particular — are among the most well-read, diverse and nimble thinkers I’ve ever met, precisely because the work they do both reflects and draws from the world in which we all live.

    I’ve also found that people with long-term specific focus on medicine, business, law, etc., are often less wordly, empathic or socially conscious or skilled, because their work requires less of that. It doesn’t mean that they’re less intelligent or inherently skilled people, it simply means that the focus of their lives doesn’t ask them to be especially empathic, self-examining, or exploratory of “the big picture.” Indeed, those that are also tend to be great writers or speakers — things that have draw more from the arts than their specific chosen fields.

    So anytime I see a job description that appeals to narrow fields of study worries me. Certainly the OAC’s job description raises my eyebrows, but I’ve seen this kind of thing before. How about looking at the people behind the original arts-based missions of A&E and Bravo? There were two networks with noble-sounding and noble-seeming missions, but they never staffed themselves with enough broad-thinking arts-savvy people, and as a result those early incarnations died swift and painful deaths. (Hard to remember now that the networks that now air “Storage Wars” and “Real Wives” once aired theater, dance and music programs.) TV people use those examples to make the case that the arts don’t work on TV, missing the larger point that perhaps it wasn’t the arts but rather their own vision that failed, because they never thought to employ a sufficient number of arts-savvy people but rather stuck to nuts and bolts TV execs with little understanding of the arts and little empathy for their audiences.

    Success in the arts means employing and embracing notions of discovery, and to be open to discovery means saying, “I don’t know… let’s go find out.” That’s a hard idea for people to comfortably embrace personally much less on a professional level; hence, you get nuts and bolts job descriptions which make their writers comfortable because they’re practical, and easily defined and measured, but which risk leading to a process that lacks vision, empathy and discovery.

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