There’s A Lot That Goes Into Making It Look Easy

Coordination in six easy steps; at least, according to Chattanooga Symphony & Opera concertmaster Holly Mulcahy, that’s how many it takes to get the string section bowings sorted out and ready for prime time. Mulcahy recently published an article at her blog, Neo Classical, describing how the process works and it’s already racked up several hundred shares as well as Norman Lebrecht calling it out at saying “I don’t think I’ve ever read a more lucid account of what a concertmaster puts in behind the scenes.”

Adaptistration People 120Granted, it’s all too easy to overlook the little things unique to our field, both on stage and off, that make what we do fascinating but Mulcahy’s post is an excellent reminder of that wonderful line from The Producers “There’s a lot more to you than there is to you!”

And from an administrative perspective, Mulcahy’s description of bowings and workplace efficiency are worth noting.

“The more I can anticipate while bowing parts, the less adjusting and stopping during rehearsals needs to happen.”

That’s a nice way of saying “less wasted rehearsal time” and that means more efficient rehearsals which leads to less overtime, lower production costs, and better concerts.

Just in case you don’t think a few minutes adds up to very much, think again; after all, there are good reasons why bowing timelines (and deadlines) are typically spelled out in collective bargaining agreements.

Read Bowing for Mahlers at Neo Classical

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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1 thought on “There’s A Lot That Goes Into Making It Look Easy”

  1. Her last paragraph nails it – it’s the thing that makes every orchestra unique, and each performance unique. There are a lot of interesting variables as she mentions. As much as someone wants to retreat into their cave with the best recordings(!) – there seems always the possibility to surpass expectations, to phrase or balance in a slightly different way that brings out something interesting.
    It also is why local orchestras have something to offer that is “tailor made” to that place, and contributes to the identity of that place. The reason why a particular bowing might heighten meaning for a particular audience at a particular place is very fascinating. Might not just be for acoustical reasons.
    Hopefully the detail doesn’t get lost to a perfectly timed sneeze – just have to accept that sometimes as well.

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