Things Are Going To Get Worse For The Met Before They Get Better

Initial fallout over The Metropolitan Opera’s (The Met) suspended music director James Levine’s alleged sexual misconduct is positively radioactive.

There is no shortage of discussion on the topic, you’ll find thousands of comments across social media threads and online classical music outlets. Passions run deep and a sizable portion of that outrage is directed toward The Met’s executive leadership.

At the time this article was written, The Met’s official Facebook page had nearly 600 comments to their post announcing the suspension of Levine pending their own investigation.

We are suspending our relationship with James Levine, pending an investigation, following multiple allegations of sexual…

Posted by The Metropolitan Opera on Sunday, December 3, 2017

More than a few commenters directed ire toward the institution’s executive leadership for what might be best characterized as turning a blind eye toward a conflux of rumors only to act once there were no other choices available.

Adaptistration People 192For now, The Met’s investigation does not appear to include any component that will examine their internal processes to protect those who are vulnerable or examine whether any credible attempts to make the institution aware of alleged wrongdoings existed, but were suppressed.

On one hand, that approach could certainly snowball into a witch hunt; at the same time, rumors surrounding Levine’s alleged behavior have persisted for decades. All of which makes it a difficult 800-lbs gorilla to ignore.

On the other hand, there is a genuine opportunity for The Met, and by extension the entire field, by way of a broader investigation led by an truly independent third party.

Right now, The Met’s investigator was engaged by and reports to the organization’s executive leadership. The conflicts of interest are self-evident, and any outcomes may only address a portion of the underlying problems that threaten to do irreparable harm to the institution’s credibility.

Having said that, The Met is unique in that it recently set a precedent during it’s 2014 labor dispute by agreeing to an independent examination of the organization’s financial records by Eugene Keilin, a co-founder of KPS Capital Partners, LP who was formerly a General Partner of Lazard Freres & Co. and Chairman of the Municipal Assistance Corporation for the City of New York.

Keilin’s final report was instrumental in preventing what was otherwise shaping up to be a thermonuclear work stoppage. He went on to continue serving the institution’s stakeholders in an independent financial oversight capacity.

This should be more than enough of a precedent to follow similar action during this crisis. Moreover, there are no shortage well highly qualified professionals already working in Title IX compliance to assist in the investigation process and crafting subsequent recommendations.

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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