Waiting For Godot, Milwaukee Style

In the wake of what seems like an ironic number of Charlie Brown football gag style attempts over the past 20 years, the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra (MSO) appears to be on a strong path toward finally kicking that ball in the form of obtaining their own concert hall.

Adaptistration People 194According to a report by Ben Jordan in the 1/10/2017 edition of tmj4.com (Milwaukee NBC affiliate), the MSO is more than halfway to their fundraising goal of $120 million to purchase and restore the Warner Grand Theatre in downtown Milwaukee.

The MSO announced their plans mid-December, 2016 and since then, it appears they have been making steady progress. The orchestra’s best case scenario has renovation work beginning in the Fall of 2017 and a grand opening at some point in 2019.

MSO President, Mark Niehaus, summed up the frustration the group has felt being trapped in what seems like an ironic orchestra venue adaptation of Waiting For Godot
(or Guffman for the Christopher Guest fans out there).

“At the symphony, we feel like we’ve been waiting for this building and the building has been waiting for us,” said Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra President Mark Niehaus.

It’s worth noting that although Niehaus started his tenure as MSO President in 2012, he served as the orchestra’s principal trumpet since 1998. As a result, he is certainly in a good position to leverage his 18 years of relationships and both-sides-of the-fence perspective in a way that may be the final piece of the equation which has eluded the group for so long.

We will definitely be keeping a close eye on this as the story develops.

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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