Breaking News: Chicago Announces Rutter’s Replacement

The Chicago Symphony Orchestra (CSO) released a statement late last night announcing the search committee tasked with finding a replacement for outgoing President Deborah F. Rutter has secured a candidate months ahead of schedule. Beginning Monday, September 1, 2014, outgoing Minnesota Orchestra Association President & CEO Michael Henson will replace Deborh F. Rutter as the CSO’s new President & General Director. In a fortuitous turn of events, I ran into the search committee chair on an L train shortly after the statement was released and we chatted about the decision to hire such a controversial executive in addition to the new executive title.
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“Well, a number of us on the committee have made summer plans that are a real hassle to change and this search schedule was really eating into that time; you know, losing rental deposits on the vacation homes and all, so we decided to prioritize ‘availability’ as the most important quality among our candidates,” said the search committee chair. “As it turns out, Debbi’s officially out of here on August 31 and Mike’s contract in Minnesota was up on August 31. It looked like a no-brainer to most of us so I made a few calls and badda-bing, badda-boom, Mike Starts September 1.”

When asked for a comment, the senior musician representative on the search committee promptly said the decision was entirely news to her.

“At first I thought this was some sort of surreal April Fool’s Day prank but it turns out they are serious about this,” she said. “The musician representatives on the committee were kept completely in the dark but they’ve put ink to paper so I guess we’re stuck with him.”

The musician spokesperson then excused herself after referencing something about calling in favors from friends in Los Angeles.

As for the new title, the search committee chair confirmed that it was Henson’s only sticking point before accepting the job.

“Mike said he didn’t want us to keep moving the Finnish line the same way they did in Minnesota so he insisted on adding General Director to his title, which means Maestro Ricci now reports to him in the official organization chart,” said the committee chair. “Sure, it seemed like an odd request to us since Debbi and Maestro Ricci always had such a productive peer relationship but you know what they say, ‘compromise is cheaper than a lawyer.’ Granted, we haven’t broken the news to the Maestro yet but we figured he would be fine with it; after all, Mike said that he has loved music since he was a kid so what could go wrong?”

At that point the chair got off the train at the 95th/Dan Ryan station and I called Maestro Muti to ask for a comment about the new reporting structure with Henson as his superior at which point he begged my pardon and excused himself saying he needed to call his lawyer about a pressing matter.

UPDATE: additional breaking details are being posted at Adaptistration’s Twitter feed throughout the day.

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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23 thoughts on “Breaking News: Chicago Announces Rutter’s Replacement

  1. I am speechless…..and not because I am happy about this. This is unbelievable. Get ready for another tough patch like we have just seen at MSO. I hope I will be proven wrong in time. Omg.

  2. Now that I read on twitter that this is a prank I really think that that was in absolutely POOR taste. What on earth possessed whoever actually wrote this to post it here. This is a new low. Or was your Twitter post a prank? Sorry but I will think twice now about anything I read here. Unbelievable, regardless of whether it was humorous.

  3. Drew, this is awesome! You hit all the right notes, and played this very well. Your pitch-perfect writing made my day. Happy April Fools.

  4. ALERT: In response to this announcement busloads of blue-and-white clad Minnesotans are now racing from Minneapolis to Chicago to demonstrate in front of Symphony Hall. Some of them are even promising to move to Chicago and stage daily demonstrations until the situation is remedied…

  5. I genuinely apologize if today’s prank startled you but in order to allow you to put your uncertainty to rest, I can confirm that I’m the author; having said that, if I had to do it all over again, would choose the same path. Having said that, perhaps Bill Cosby put it best when he said “You can turn painful situations around through laughter. If you can find humor in anything, even poverty, you can survive it.”

  6. Best prank of the day! The bit about Muti moving down the organizational ladder is spot on. Hopefully the wise heads at MOA are realizing that this concept
    is a joke in a musical non profit, and can leave behind the previous regime’s fear and control based business model while in negotiations with Vanska.

  7. Well done, Drew! If “Mike” thought the Finnish line kept moving in Mpls., he’d really have fun trying to catch the Italian Alfa Romeo on the Autobahn! LOL Ah, as Elizabeth wrote, we are counting the days in Minnesota….

  8. I thought for certain the reference to running into the chair on the L and use of overly casual first names would have done it but maybe mid-westerners really are just that casual and nice. 🙂

  9. I laughed out loud when I read Michael Henson’s name. And that was before I knew it was a prank! Great joke. But yes, we Minnesotans are an informal lot, so “Mike” wasn’t so shocking. After all, our beloved director is known as “Osmo”, not “Maestro” or “Mr. Vanska”. We even normally referred (in public settings) to our former Governor Ventura as “Jesse”.

  10. For people who know Chicago, the fact that the “chair” got off the L at the 95/Dan Ryan station
    is the funniest line of the entire story. Ha, ha, ha..

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