Would We Still Bill The Titanic Musicians For Missing Uniforms?

Today marks the 105-year anniversary of the sinking of the RMS Titanic and well before the movie launched the disaster into new levels of cultural consciousness, examining the historical event was a major stepping stone from my conservatory years.

Specifically, one of the school’s ear training professors used to keep a framed photo of the musicians as a conversation piece to introduce students to the importance of valuing what artists contribute. That was followed by telling us that Titanic’s company, White Star Lines, billed the musicians’ families for their missing uniforms following their death. It was one of the first, and unfortunately few, instances I can recall that unabashedly prepared students for the sorts of attitudes they may encounter earning a position in an orchestra where the employer endorsed similar scruples.

Holly Mulcahy wrote a wonderful article on this topic at Neo Classical back in 2010 that should be required reading for all stakeholders. If it’s new to you, take the time out of your day to give it a read.

It’s Black and White; the hidden effects of cutting corners

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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