#TBT Diversity Boomerang

In response to yesterday’s post about the Canadian Opera Company (COC) and Toronto Symphony Orchestra (TSO) losing city funding due to a lack of diversity, I noticed some intriguing conversations across social media.

One of the overriding themes was a sense that orchestras are genuinely trying as hard as they can to address diversity and that stated commitment should count for something.

These points made me think about a post here from 4/10/2017 about an interview article with then outgoing San Francisco Symphony (SFS) executive director Brent Assink that appeared in the San Francisco Classical Voice.

Are Audiences A Reflection Or Projection Of What We Want?

Please take the time to read the post and the complete excerpt of Assink’s comments about SFS diversity efforts. But in a nutshell, although diversity was important to the SFS, it was only important to a certain degree.

However, one community that has been out of reach is the African-American community. Assink explains it this way, “we don’t have the resources or the energy, or whatever it is, to slot ourselves into a logical relationship with the African-American community, a relationship built on the kind of cultural tradition we have in other communities. If you don’t have that connection, the effort feels forced; it feels artificial, and then, I think, you’re worse off than if you didn’t do anything at all.”

In Toronto, the local government appears to be measuring that gap in arts funding dollars.

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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