Let’s Talk About The Unionized Environment Within The Orchestra Field

On 10/3/15, I had the pleasure to return as a guest on Doing What Works with Maureen Anderson, a weekly radio talk show that originates from WZFG AM 1100 and runs on Sundays from 10 to midnight Central on the Radio America network, to talk about the unique unionized environment within the orchestra field.

Adaptistration People 143If you’ve ever been interested in a solid overview of how that structure has evolved, how unionized musicians interact with their employer, dispute resolution, the challenges related to intra-musician interactions and the duty of fair representation, and some of the more conflict driven trends since the economic downturn, this is the program for you.

We’ve examined all of these issues in one way or another dozens of times over the years but there’s never been a concise, single resource to help bring everything together. Maureen did a wonderful job walking through each step in the conversation and even though we had the rare luxury of just over 40 minutes, time flew by and I’m sure you’ll have a similar experience.

I’m very happy to say that the entire conversation remained above lowest common denominator ideologue driven conversations that tend to accompany union related topics and by the end, it should help you look at your local orchestra and related stakeholders from a new perspective.

You can listen to a streaming copy of the program through the end of the month at the show’s website (and check out some of the other programs currently available) or listen via the player below.

Doing What Works with Maureen Anderson

How do you resolve a labor dispute?

October 3, 2015

Would you be surprised to learn orchestra jobs are union jobs? I was. Drew McManus, an orchestra consultant from Chicago, takes us up on stage and behind the music stands to describe what it’s really like to be a paid musician. Did you know, for example, it wasn’t unheard of back in the day a musician could get fired for sneezing? And how do you sit next to the same colleague, who happens to annoy you very much, for years — without your performance suffering or the audience noticing? It’s a fascinating study in management and dispute resolution with larger implications for all of life.

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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7 thoughts on “Let’s Talk About The Unionized Environment Within The Orchestra Field”

    • Thank you and it was genuinely fun; it is rare to have an opportunity to talk about these issues in so much depth, especially in an environment outside of normal industry channels. Consequently, it was an entirely enjoyable conversation, thanks in large part to the host’s level of interest and approach.

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