You Had Me At “Pretty Shoes”

Nice ShoesPatrons love learning seeing what goes on behind the scenes, whether its learning how music librarians dodge incoming fire or the complexities of equal pay for equal work among musicians.

Case in point, Holly Mulcahy published an article at Neo Classical that examines what a concertmaster does. In addition to the typical duties and responsibilities, the post examines much of the unwritten requirements that go with the job.

“And here I thought all you did was walk out in pretty shoes and tune the orchestra!”

That patron’s statement caught me by surprise while I was explaining details of my job as concertmaster. It turns out many people don’t know much about what a concertmaster does!

In addition to offering up her own insights as Concertmaster of the Chattanooga Symphony & Opera, she elicits insights from fellow concertmasters across a diverse spectrum of orchestra budgets. The list includes David Kim (Philadelphia Orchestra), Nurit Bar-Josef (National Symphony), Frank Almond (Milwaukee Symphony), Emmanuelle Boisvert, Former Concertmaster Detroit Symphony Orchestra; Associate Concertmaster, Dallas Symphony Orchestra, and Violetta Todorova (Fort Wayne Philharmonic).

It’s More Than Wearing Pretty Shoes

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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