A Sad Day

I was saddened to hear the news that former Chattanooga Symphony & Opera (CSO) executive director, Molly Sasse French, passed away the morning of Tuesday, October 11, 2016.

Working with Molly was always a pleasure. She had an enormously generous spirit and was a quintessential host who never tired of filling the role of enthusiastic host for her community. When visiting Chattanooga for the first time, she was the one meet me at the airport and was eager to give me a first-hand tour of the community she cherished.

Whether it was simply talking shop or working on projects, she brought a refreshing amount of pragmatism to find win-win options. She was also key in helping the CSO successfully transition through a rough patch that would have been otherwise disastrous, so losing leaders with those unique skillsets is always difficult.

It was fascinating to learn about Chattanooga’s renaissance as it evolved from a depressed post-industrial city into what my wife, CSO concertmaster Holly Mulcahy, aptly describes as “the Jackson Hole of the south.”

Molly recognized that the CSO needed to stay with curve during the extraordinary years of city growth as it transitioned into a center of tourism, culture, and technology. This not only helped the CSO avoid becoming just another doom-and-gloom story but placed it squarely in a leadership position within their performing arts community.

The ensemble, its stakeholders, and the larger community were fortunate to have an established leader with vision in the right place and the right time.

The CSO released an announcement yesterday and the orchestra’s upcoming performance on October 20, 2016 will be presented in her memory. According to the CSO, memorial gifts to the orchestra may be made by calling 423.267.8583 x 2103 or visiting their website.

molly sasse french

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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