Knowing When You Shouldn’t Get Involved

One of the most frequent reader questions coming in from musicians is “do you ever write about [insert musician oriented topic here]?” By and large, although the topic may be fascinating it really doesn’t have much impact from an administrator’s point of view and unless its byproduct becomes something to be attended to administratively (such as the equal pay for equal work topic) we tend to steer clear of those issues.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, there’s plenty of gray between the black and white for any given topic but having said that, there never seems to be a shortage of managers learning lessons the hard way or getting sucked into a quagmire due to strong personal inclinations on a specific topic.

Here’s an ideal example: a discussion popped up at the Facebook group AuditionHacker (no relation to where the group moderator asked the following question to the group’s predominantly musician membership:

Is it cheating to edit an audition recording; if so, why?

It didn’t take long for a steady stream of replies to come in from the group’s members, which isn’t the least bit surprising because this is a genuinely important issue for orchestra musicians when determining how their respective audition process should be structured.

Adaptistration People 023But from an administrator’s perspective, the answer should be “bring whatever you decide to us so we can be sure to include it in the process.”

It doesn’t matter if you have a degree in music performance or even held a position as an orchestra musician at one point in time, this is one of those topics where musicians and/or music director should make the call. Yes, with this specific topic, there’s a chance that someone close to that process, such as the personnel manager, may in fact be a current member of the orchestra but unless that individual is also on the audition committee, s/he should stay out of the decision making.

In short, just because you can be involved doesn’t mean you should be involved and learning to know when and where those instances arise is an important skill to develop and maintain.

In the end, there’s plenty of gray in this field and you don’t need to go out of your way to find it but you can do yourself (and by extension your colleagues) a favor by making sure you let sleeping black and white dogs lie.

Postscript: if you’re interested in reading articles here at Adaptistration which do focus on musician issues, you’re in luck because there’s a category for just that sort a thing.

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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