Is Global Warming Something Orchestras Have To Worry About?

The 9/3/2016 edition of the New York Times (NYT) published an article by Justin Gillis that reports on the initial stages of coastal flooding resulting from global warming. Normally, this isn’t the usual sort of thing one might associate with the orchestra field; then again, times are far from “normal.”

The detailed article examines severe flooding in several cities but one that caught my eye was Norfolk, VA, home to the Virginia Symphony Orchestra (VSO).

The VSO has had its share of financial challenges over the past decade but when juxtaposed with the potential for its supporter base to erode thanks to increasingly aggressive flooding, it may inspire thoughts about long term viability. Simply put, it’s one thing to argue about sustainability vis-à-vis changing cultural tastes or any of the other host of reasons offered up for declining interest in live orchestral music, but there’s no arguing flood waters.

Both Houston Symphony and Nashville Symphony have endured devastating flooding damage so there should be no unknowns here when it comes to tangible damage, but the larger concerns surround long term potential for any given community to survive.

Granted, larger cities named in the NYT article as flooding hotspots, such as Boston and Miami, are likely going to find a way to deal with these problems in a way that doesn’t erode population base. But what about Annapolis, Norfolk, Charleston (SC), or Wilmington (NC)?

All of this really hits home when you take a look at the NYT’s ‘sunny Day’ flooding map. Most of the areas with the worst flooding are home to a wide variety of professional orchestras across the budget spectrum. I’ve pointed out a few of the professional orchestras located in the flooding hot spots.

flooding map

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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4 thoughts on “Is Global Warming Something Orchestras Have To Worry About?”

  1. Very good point and quite forward thinking. Thank you for thinking about this and bringing it up as it is something that few if any of us on this thread have thought about in this context. Most of the economic ramifications of climate change are most likely not even apparent to us at this time. Some of the real obvious ones are of course, but thinking in minute details such as you have done is very important in driving the concept of how climate change will indeed have an impact on our everyday lives. Dileep

  2. Though not a professional orchestra, the New World Symphony also comes to mind. It’s right on Miami Beach. I wonder how storm/flood resistant Frank Gehry’s new hall is. It seems like it was finished just before these issues came more seriously into focus.

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