There’s a fascinating article in the 1/22/2015 edition of ArtsATL.com by Mark Gresham featuring an interview with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s (CSO) new Principal Bassoon, Keith Buncke. Prior to winning the CSO audition, Buncke served in the same position with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra (ASO) and when asked about that organization’s recent lockout and history of labor unrest as reason for seeking work elsewhere, Buncke had some intriguing replies.
Buncke handled the question with a great deal of poise while simultaneously remaining candid.
I think the ASO’s instability is a factor when looking at similarly ranked orchestras such as Dallas and Houston. Of course, the instability is always a factor. One would always prefer to be a part of a thriving orchestra, but it seems people are more likely to leave the ASO for other historically similar orchestras than say, 10 years ago.
That last sentence should catch your attention.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, an opening like CSO principal bassoon is going to be a strong gravitational force but when living wage orchestras begin shedding members to peer ensembles, it should be a red flag to the organization’s leadership.
To that end, one of the ongoing missed opportunities in the field is leveraging workplace satisfaction as a tool for attracting talent away from peer orchestras where musicians and managers would otherwise not traditionally consider.
Anecdotally speaking, musicians and managers are slowly beginning to place increased value on overall workplace satisfaction as opposed to measuring self-worth and happiness based on good old benchmarks of budget size, base pay, and benefits. A position that pays ten percent less but has a substantially higher level of overall job satisfaction and a healthy work environment is more valuable than ever.
Yet, the field has a particular reticence to any efforts that quantifiably measure workplace satisfaction; it’s a topic we’ve covered at great length over the years but there hasn’t been a spec of measureable progress on it throughout the field.
Having said that, the potential is still a wide open frontier and orchestras with enough vision to leverage it as a tool to begin recruiting and retaining talent that would otherwise be unavailable will be far, far ahead of the curve at the end of the next decade.
So who wants to be first?