Speaking Truth To Power With Empathy, Patience, And Process

In the wake of recent events, I am grateful that tomorrow includes a scheduled guest author post from composer Kareem Roustom.

I had the pleasure of spending some time with Roustom during his recent trip to Chicago when the Grant Park Music Festival performed his work Ramal. Like so many of the best works coming from new composers, it’s a reflection of our time and draws inspiration from events both profound and emotional. It resonates because it reaches us on an artistic level and inspires empathy.

Here’s how Roustom, a Syrian-American, describes the piece:

Although the work is not programmatic in its design, its emotional drive and changing meters reflect the unsettled state of the world, specifically the devastating current situation in Syria. Despite all this, there is a tone of defiance in Ramal. Dedicated to the memory of Edward Said, Ramal is inspired by his steadfast determination to speak truth to power.

Think of his guest author contribution tomorrow as a sort of empathy booster shot. I can’t really say much without delivering spoilers but suffice to say, much like his music, it draws on a real-life example to help illustrate its point. It also includes a good bit of inspirational material in the form of how artists and arts organizations can go about building meaningful cultural connections.

Mark your schedule now, it’s one you won’t want to miss.

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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