Your Company Has A Basketball Team? That’s Great, Mine Has An 80 Piece Orchestra

There’s a fun article by JP Mangalindan in the 12/19/17 edition of Yahoo Finance that examines the company sponsored 80-piece orchestra at Although doctors’ and lawyers’ orchestras have a long history, I can’t think of another volunteer orchestra this size organized entirely within a single company (I’d love to hear about others).

Although the article doesn’t clarify exactly how much of a budget the group receives, it reports Amazon provides rehearsal and performance space. Currently, the group schedules a few concerts per year and uses some of those events to raise money for charities, one of their recent efforts raised over $18,000.

According to the article, the group’s conductor is Fred Clarke, Senior Manager, Alexa Engineering. In addition to an MBA, Clarke has a BA in Music Theory from Yale where, according to his LinkedIn profile, he was a member of the band and orchestra as well as conducting the Berkeley Chamber Players.

It’s a genuine feel-good article. Not only is it heartening to see a company find value in facilitating employee cultural creativity but it’s fascinating to see one with so many employees that have experience as instrumentalists and the desire to continue performing.

If you’re curious what they sound like, you can find a recording of the group from July, 2017 here: (I would otherwise embed the clip, but it appears the video owner has embedding disabled).

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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