This Is The Musician You’ve Been Looking For

Hugh Sung is a classical pianist, techie, and author dedicated to helping folks discover the joy of making music. At the end of 2015, he launched A Musical Life podcast which includes interviews with the likes of Jennifer Higdon and David Kim but his most recent episode includes a 55 minute interview with Neo Classical author and Chattanooga Symphony & Opera concertmaster, Holly Mulcahy.

Adaptistration People 120The interview dives into areas of Mulcahy’s atypical 20+ year career path where she has been a pioneer in areas that ultimately became hot topics throughout the orchestra field. Among those is the value of connecting with the audience in ways beyond the artistic.

For the last decade, the administrative side of the field has been pushing for musician job descriptions that include non-artistic responsibilities, such as communication and outreach skills. This seemingly straightforward addition becomes mired in conflict thanks to those qualities rarely being paired with necessary responsibility, authority, or compensation. As a result, most of these discussions end up coming across as “do all of this other stuff for no additional pay and we want to use it for determining which musicians win/lose jobs based on administrator-only judgment.”

Perhaps unsurprisingly, these efforts generally land with disingenuous affect among many musicians. The end result is a good idea that dies an ugly death due to poor design and even worse implementation.

If you have ever pondered this quandary, then you’re going to find that segment of the interview particularly uplifting (especially the 41:45 mark).

You can jump into the beginning of that segment around the 34-minute mark and know that it dovetails into another fascinating section about the connection between leadership (artistic and administrative) and job satisfaction, a regular topic here at Adaptistration.

Granted, when it comes to Mulcahy I’m decidedly a biased opinion, so take that into consideration. But anyone from the outside looking in can see how she has managed to not only tap into solutions that have otherwise eluded many of the top minds tackling these problems, but is successfully implementing them.

In Mulcahy’s case, her hands-on approach means none of this is academic; she’s not just talking with Sung about ideas but what she’s already accomplished. As such, I have to believe that is one of several factors that contribute to Sung describing her as the “Queen of Classical Music Culture.”

Listen To The Podcast

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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