The Executive Shuffle Is In Full Swing

The executive revolving door at the largest budget orchestras has been working overtime this season. Here at the tail end of the 2016/17 season, we’ve seen more than half of the CEOs at the Big 8 orchestras vacate their post.
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  1. First up was San Francisco Symphony, where long time Executive Director, Brent Assink, started off the season announcing he would be stepping down at the end of the season.
  2. Shortly thereafter, National Symphony Orchestra announced Executive Director, Rita Shapiro, would be gone by the end of 2016 (that position has been filled by Gary Ginstling).
  3. 2017 had barely arrived and New York Philharmonic President, Matthew VanBesien, decided to jump ship for an executive post in academia.
  4. That announcement was barely cold before New York released news they were poaching LA Philharmonic CEO Deborah Borda, who officially left her LA post on June 1, 2017.
  5. And now we have the Philadelphia Orchestra’s announcement that CEO Allison B. Vulgamore is out at the end of her current contract on December 31, 2017.

That leaves the Boston Symphony Orchestra, Chicago Symphony Orchestra, and Cleveland Orchestra in tact; although the latter two both appointed new CEOs in 2014 and 2015, respectively.

On the other end of that spectrum is Boston’s Mark Volpe, who began his current tenure as the orchestra’s Managing Director in 1997.

There you have it, any guesses on who’s going where next?

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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