Self-Inflicted Wounds

ADAPTISTRATION_Guy190There’s a fascinating blog post by John Pavlovitz from 8/15/2014 that’s worth your time. If you’re wondering who John Pavlovitz is, join the club. I have no idea beyond what’s available at his about page, but his post caught my eye because a great deal of it applies to the orchestra field; so much so that you can practically swap out a few keys words from his topic (church/religion) with those from our field (i.e. orchestra/classical music) without diluting the impact.

Edited Title:

Church Orchestra, Here’s Why People Are Leaving You.

Edited Opening:

Being on the other side of the Exodus sucks, don’t it?

I see the panic on your face, Church Orchestra.

I know the internal terror as you see the statistics and hear the stories and scan the exit polls box office reports.

I see you desperately scrambling to do damage control for the fence-sitters, and manufacture passion from the shrinking faithful core audience, and I want to help you.

You may think you know why people are leaving you, but I’m not sure you do.

You think it’s because “the culture” is so lost, so perverse unsophisticated, so beyond help that they are all walking away.

You believe that they’ve turned a deaf ear to the voice of God symphonic classics; chasing money movies, and sex video games, and material things sporting events.

You think that the gays and the Muslims and the Atheists lack of music education and the pop stars (wait, that one actually works) pop stars have so screwed-up the morality priorities of the world ticket buyers, that everyone is abandoning faith classical music in droves.

But those aren’t the reasons people are leaving you.

They aren’t the problem, Church Orchestra.

You are the problem.

Let me elaborate in 5 ways…

Pavlovitz goes on to list the following five reasons he identifies as the root of the problem and I encourage you to review his rationale then and come up with your own variations.

  1. Your productions have worn thin.
  2. You speak in a foreign tongue.
  3. Your vision can’t see past your building.
  4. You choose lousy battles.
  5. Your love doesn’t look like love.

But the real kicker is an excerpt from his closing, which practically serves as a sacrament for the emerging class of patron stakeholders. It’s so good, there’s no need to amend a single word.

These words may get you really, really angry, and you may want to jump in a knee-jerk move to defend yourself or attack these positions line-by-line, but we hope that you won’t.

We hope that you’ll just sit in stillness with these words for a while, because whether you believe they’re right or wrong, they’re real to us, and that’s the whole point.

We’re the ones walking away.
We want to matter to you.
We want you to hear us before you debate us.

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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3 thoughts on “Self-Inflicted Wounds”

  1. I saw the article but haven’t taken the time to read it yet. I’m both a musician and a Christian (an odd combination, it seems!) and I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard someone at a church — or even a pastor at some churches — preach on “relevance” or “how can we get the younger generation here?” or I hear talk about the dying church and I tell whoever is with me, “They could be talking about the symphony just as easily as the church. It seems both speak a similar language.

    That being said, there are things that can’t be thrown out of either in order for them to remain true to themselves. The church, should it be a Christian one, has to follow the Bible. Other religions have to follow their Bible, yes? The symphony … well … we could toss out the music and start new, but then we wouldn’t be a symphony any longer.

    I find it all fascinating, challenging, and I am determined to remain true to my beliefs (in both) while also keeping my mind open to change and thoughts from people in these worlds.

    Ramble ramble …

    And of course I’ve read articles from nearly 100 year ago that are talking about the same issues in both of these worlds. To quote the Bible, “There is nothing new under the sun”! 🙂

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