Revisiting Orchestra Docents

One of the advantages of being Editor-in-Chief at ArtsHacker is getting to see what’s in store before everyone else. To that end, there’s a good post on the way about volunteers and it made me think of a four-part series here from 2004 on the topic of orchestra docents and how those programs could grow and evolve into something even more effective than the way most were designed at that time.

Adaptistration People 069At the heart of the series was an exhaustive examination of a very successful docent program from that time at the Denver Zoo. It involved a good deal of research interviewing docents, zoo administrators, and animal keepers. It was a genuinely unique research project and at the time, was one of the most in-depth at Adaptistration.

Keep in mind, this was long enough ago that it predates social media and even commenting. Nonetheless, this series generated some of the most email responses at the time, one of which was from none other than Joe Patti. He was every bit as insightful then as today.

It’s remarkable to go back and see how much of the material from those articles is just as applicable today as it was more than a decade prior.

So set aside some time and wade into the series. To that end, another point to keep in mind is my blog posts were, on average, much longer than they are today. As such, I took the time to apply some editing and chop paragraphs up into more readable chunks.

I’m also curious to know if any groups have established docent programs akin to what is espoused on this series. If so, I’d love to hear about it; please take a moment to get in touch.

Orchestra Docents: Introduction 

Orchestra Docents Study Part 1

Orchestra Docents Study Part 2

Orchestra Docents Study Part 3

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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